Creating UX Buy-In | The User Experience

Facilitating meetings that encourage creative strategizing can be a way to move organizational thinking from problem-solving to solution-focused.

Facilitating meetings that encourage creative strategizing can be a way to move organizational thinking from problem-solving to solution-focused

I was part of a panel entitled “Can a UX department really make a difference?” at the Designing for Digital Conference in Austin, TX, April 3–5. The other panelists—Josh Boyer from North Carolina State University, Courtney McDonald from Indiana University, Debra Kohal from Rice—also lead user experience (UX) departments in academic libraries. The panel was designed to address whether having a UX department automatically increases buy-in and understanding of UX work across organizations and what challenges face both UX departments and those doing solo UX work in libraries. Below are some of the ideas shared at the panel, as well as some strategies we’ve tried at New York University (NYU) Libraries, which can help lead to organizational buy-in.

Invite stakeholders

At NYU Libraries, we have found involving stakeholders as active observers in usability tests to be very effective. For our formal usability tests, we broadcast the test (with user agreement, of course) in a conference room and invite stakeholders to participate in sharing observational feedback. There are few better ways to expose stakeholders to UX.

The formal feedback is valuable, as are the conversations that ensue as a result of these observations. In fact, the conversations are so valuable that we now build in 15 minutes between tests in order to encourage stakeholders to talk about their observations. These informal chats often lead to solution-oriented brainstorming, and it’s rare that everyone doesn’t leave feeling energized and excited.

Apply “Design Thinking”

Design thinking, a methodology originally used by designers but now proliferating across organizations, is often coupled with UX work. This can benefit those doing UX in organizations, as they can capitalize on design thinking methods that may help shift the standard and often stale organizational feedback model. Facilitating meetings that encourage creative strategizing can be a powerful way to help move organizational thinking from problem-solving to solution-focused.

Expose the UX process

Group sketching on whiteboards is not a unique UX skill, but it can be a particularly effective way to showcase UX methods. Next time you are facilitating a meeting, or attending one, bring a whiteboard marker and sketch ideas and solutions. When other members have ideas, ask them to sketch them out as well, or iterate on your sketch. As is often the case, sketching out ideas can lead to different responses than those generated by discussion.

Also, these sketches can serve as a jumping-off point for wire-framing designs. Translating sketches into mock-ups can demonstrate part of the UX process. It can also drive progress, engage more visual learners, and enliven a meeting.

Try Personae

Ask staff to form groups and put themselves in the shoes of a persona and create a journey map of their experience.

Yes, personae are controversial. But if you have them, why not use them? Grouping stakeholders and asking them to prioritize features based on the needs of a persona they’ve been paired with can be a powerful reminder that the priorities of the stakeholder are not necessarily those of the audience for whom the interface or service is being designed.

Write about UX

There are rarely shortages of organizational venues where you can write about and share your UX work. Contributing to the organizational wiki, or to newsletters or blogs, can be a powerful way to expose your work to colleagues. And it tends to pay dividends in other areas as well. At NYU Libraries, we’ve created a UX blog and have found it to be an effective team-building exercise. In addition, being able to review blog posts has helped us write annual reports, reminds us of success metrics, and lets us look back on projects and processes that can help us inform upcoming work.

Nadaleen Tempelman-Kluit is Head of the User Experience Department, New York University Libraries

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