In my current organisation I am constantly running into clients (both internal and external) who (when disagreeing with a recommendation) say, "as a user ... I think you're wrong".

How do you tell your clients that they are not necessarily the best judges of what a REAL user needs, and that they have hired you to do exactly that? (We have conducted stakeholder interviews etc.)

  • It normally mean you have not explained your recommendation, or that there is a better way, hardly ever is the better way what they are asking for.
    – Ian
    Jun 5, 2014 at 9:51
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    To be honest, they are a user so subjectively speaking their opinion is just as valid as any one single user elsewhere. It's when you add all these users opinions and experiences together that you get an overall picture of how to solve a situation. So don't treat his/her opinion as invalid, just as 'one voice of many'.
    – JonW
    Jun 5, 2014 at 10:16
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    I agree with the advice that you present your evidence that other clients (or the client's clients) favor your answer. I strongly recommend checking whether there's a reasonable compromise or third answer that satisfies all parties. But in the end, remember that the clients are the ones with the money. Would you rather be right, or paid? Sometimes the right answer, especially when it's UI rather than functional, is to register your objection calmly, do it the client's way and let them discover for themselves whether you were right or wrong. If you're right, maybe they'll listen next time.
    – keshlam
    Jun 5, 2014 at 12:49
  • Maybe your client is a user, and maybe you are too. But no UX pro would let users simply tell them what they do or what they want. That's what user testing is for, to observe what users do. And we all know what they do is usually different from what they say they do. Jun 11, 2014 at 12:59

5 Answers 5


In my experience you'll find this sort of politics in nearly every project and some user research can help you a lot. Try to stress out that not you nor they understand user needs exactly and to really know something, it might be worthwhile to do a little research. This way, you're not blaming them for doing your job in a bad manner. Instead you're stressing out there is more to it than just some feelings and a hunch. You will always lose a discussion with your manager or a client when the both of you only have a feeling that 'it might be this way'.

If you have done research you can say to your client or manager: 'Yeah Bob, I think you're completely right and I, as a user, would prefer it to work that way as well. However, if we look at the research, both user-interviews and best-practices indicate it should be implemented in another way'.

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    We do conduct a lot of research and try and base all of our recommendations on empirical data. I really like the example phrase - 'Yeah Bob, I think you're completely right and I, as a user, would prefer it to work that way as well. However, if we look at the research, both user-interviews and best-practices indicate it should be implemented in another way'. Thanks Jun 5, 2014 at 9:02
  • What if you have best practices, but no research available? Is it "only a hunch" then?
    – Bergi
    Jun 6, 2014 at 3:53
  • Be honest about it being best practices. Possibly give some real world examples. Best practices are more than a hunch: they are real world examples that survived heavy user testing.
    – Ruudt
    Jun 6, 2014 at 7:23

Always be polite.
Do not say the client isn't the best judge, just say, we made some interviews and the result of them are, that the users want this function (or what ever the client think you're wrong).

If the client, which say you're wrong, give you a reason why you should be wrong, and this reason isn't true, disprove his argument with your thought (but don't forget, always be polite!) and try to explain why he's wrong.

The client should know you're the expert, because he hired you. Show him the result of your interview. Use colorful diagrams, they always impress the client.
Just show him that you know what you are doing. Sooner or later he will believe you.

But remember. Always be polite ;-)

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    So politeness is the key :) Jun 5, 2014 at 9:00
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    @pjhauser: My experience is, if you're polite and try to explain why the client is maybe wrong, he will (try) to understand you. More than if you're offensive. Some users are harder to convince, others are really understanding. Jun 5, 2014 at 9:11

It is important to create a common ground and Personas are a great way to achieve this. As part of the design process, for example as result of the interviews, set up 2 or 3 personas that describe the key users of the product. This is excellently described in the book 'The Inmates Are Running the Asylum' by Alan Cooper.

When setting up (2 or 3) personas, all stakeholders should agree on his or her primary needs. So instead of referring to 'the user' or 'as a user', everyone should refer to the persona of e.g. 'Sarah'. Empathy for Sarah provides a common understanding for what is relevant and what not. Sarah, in this case, is the real user.

  • Thanks, thats a great point. We do write persona's and I love Alan Coopers book but we don't continue the culture of referring to persona's throughout. Thats an excellent tactic and really allows the persona's to add value. We can then ensure that we critique wireframes and designs from a persona's perspective, and try and instil that attitude with our clients. Jun 11, 2014 at 8:48

I've recently had the client or stakeholder unable to accept that they are wrong and they have pushed through their ideas regardless. Over the years, I'm beginning to understand that it is a question of balance and about developing an empathy of the client or stakeholder themselves. Some need absolute clarity over why you have made a decision so it is important to think about how to present your research. I appreciate it depends on budget and timescale, but try to show iteration, AB test to prove minor points, refer to personas, analytics, real-world data and any of the UX armoury that is open to you at the time. There is no 'right' way with such a subjective emotional messy area as that of human psychology and behaviour. If you find that it is all still not being received and a compromise really cannot be reached, then suggest post-analysis (UX never stops at development) of their ideas. It's always a challenge, but try to learn new skills or employ new tools as you progress, because you can always take these with you.


Before any project kicks off it's important to get the roles straight. Among others, there are stakeholders (the client) and users (not the client). The client has inside information and can never be representative as a user, persona's or a detailed customer journey are a great way to handle this.

Depending on the situation, i'll show/send around this link: http://uxmyths.com/post/715988395/myth-you-are-like-your-users, making something of a joke of it.

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