Saturday, January 24, 2009

The UX Customer Experience: Communicating Effectively with Stakeholders and Clients

Focusing on stakeholders who are not users ...

"User experience and its associated fields of expertise—such as usability, information architecture, interaction design, and user interface design—have expanded rapidly over the past decade to accommodate what seems like insatiable demand, as the world moves toward an increasingly digital existence.

As UX professionals, we often take technology for granted, accepting the massive complexity and rapid change in our field as the norm—and perhaps even something to embrace and enjoy. With this outlook and because we’re steeped in our daily professional activities, it becomes all too easy for us to forget that ours is not the usual point of view, and the technological change we expect, the expert jargon we speak, and the processes we use are foreign and confusing to other people. So, while we focus our attention on the users of digital products, we can sometimes be remiss in our treatment of another important audience—the stakeholders and clients with whom we collaborate to complete our assignments and projects.

Effective communication with stakeholders and clients is critical to the design process itself, but this is not a topic we often address, because, at first glance, it doesn’t appear to contribute directly to our primary goals, which are to create, build, and ship digital products. Certainly, as an industry, we are attuned to client service in a general sense, but there’s no doubt that methods of UX customer communication, education, and collaboration are sometimes overlooked and underutilized aspects of the design process. We can and should treat the elements of stakeholder and client communication as a kind of user experience. And we should design this experience for our UX customers so far as it’s possible to do so.

Considering the overall stakeholder and client experience in a broader sense, it begins with the sales cycle, during which the stakeholders go through the process of deciding to purchase UX design; continues though project management and the design process itself, when they contribute to product creation; and concludes with the launch of a digital product, when a company releases its realized creation into the marketplace. All of these aspects of the UX customer experience, of course, determine whether that experience is an effective, satisfying, and successful one in the eyes of the stakeholder or client.

As UX professionals, the part of the UX customer cycle over which we have the most control is the stakeholder’s or client’s level of engagement in the problem-solving efforts that are part of the design process. So, while it’s beyond the scope of this article to suggest a complete experience for UX customers, I want to explore some of the ways in which we can approach the design phase from the perspective of stakeholders or clients and improve their overall understanding of it.

We need to communicate our design ideas effectively with non-technical customers and keep them engaged in the design process. Investing time and effort in this area brings returns in the form of more efficient design cycles and better products. As UX professionals, we’re adept at envisioning the end states of our labors. Communicating our vision to our stakeholders and clients is critical to our long-term success."    (Continued via UXmatters, Jonathan Follett)    [Usability Resources]

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