Hang in there, my fellow Davids!

Hang in there, my fellow Davids!

Establishing new processes is always a challenge. No matter if you work in a small to medium sized company or in a big concern. In most companys UX and usability processes and methods are not yet part of the company workflow, that is sad but mostly true. If you have someone who has already fought for establishing and implementing usability methods, you are lucky. For all others: Hang in there, guys, the fight against this Goliath will be tough!

We all have been there: You are a brand new “UX Professional”, you have finished your training or hold your freshly printed certificate in your hands. Your head is full of ideas and optimized processes and methods that will improve not only your work but your whole companys products and inhouse workflows. It could be awesome! And then you are highly motivated and have a chance to present your ideas to your bosses. You show them how you can change the workflows, explain which methods to implement and why; and with all that how you can improve the quality of work and products for all. And maybe your bosses will nod their heads in consent. But let me tell you: You have come far, my friend, but it’s only the beginning. In terms of gaming you have just finished the tutorial, the real first level is about to start. Grab your gear and be ready to face the first encounter with the mighty Goliath (aka old immovable company structures)!

I’ve been in this situation myself and a few days ago I had a meeting with some usability engineers from a big concern who like to build an usability and UX workflow in their company. My company is currently a service provider for their company for a few years now and they asked me to describe the usability processes in our work. Long story short: no matter how big the company, from the small 30 people startup-ish size up to the really big worldwide players, you have to fight 24/7 to change something. Sure the smaller the company the faster you will achieve something. And there are some crucial differences how to communicate what and how you like to change something. But overall I’ve seen that the main problems aren’t that different. Here are my main findings in trying to establish a UX process.

Be pushy and insist on your ideas

Let’s be honest. Even if your boss agrees with your ideas, he will have been forgotten half of them as soon as he’s left the meeting room. And that’s fully understandable, there are thousand other things in his mind. For you these things are on main focus, for him maybe not. Remember him from time to time. Don’t bother to repeat your presentation over and over again. And most important: present a defined strategy. What should your boss do with a theoretical “we could do that, and maybe that”? He has no time to think about a plan for that. He needs a written out strategy. He needs facts and some numbers: If you change your job position into that of a usability professional, what does that mean, what kind of ressources do you need, when do you have to be involved in projects, how does that influence the time schedule of projects? If you have estimated all that in detail, print it out and place it on his desk. Be clear what you like to do. But it’s his decision after all if you get the chance. You can only hope and remember him from time to time if nothing happens. Keep in mind: why should he deny it, after all it was him who has hired you or sent you on this training for being a UX Pro. The worst that can happen is that you have to refine your concept to meet the needs of your company a bit better.

Most companies are afraid of actually asking the real users

There seem to be many biases stuck in the heads about user testing and user interviews. Asking the users is expensive, it is time consuming and requires a luxury equipped lab. Bullshit. You don’t need eyetracking. You don’t need an expensive prototype. You don’t need hundreds of users and weeks to conduct. You can have valuable results with a low-tech paper prototype. You can have even use remote or unmoderated tests. Even 5 users can be enough and can be recruited guerilla-style… there’s really no excuse to not do user testing!

Avoid the Titanic Workflow Mentality to save yourself

On a blog I really like and recommend to all of you I’ve read about the Titanic Workflow mentality. Jennifer Aldrich speaks about UX colleagues who are battling a tough workplace culture and immovable workflows. If you keep doing the things the way you always have it will have fatal consequences. For you personally it would mean that your talent will drop off, your freshly learned skills will leave and become memory, you will become stressed, angry and frustrated. And for your company: change is necessary even if it’s scary as hell. Optimizing UX and usability is something no one can shrug off anymore. If your company does not see that or is not willing to change the workflows, well, hello Titanic, let me introduce you to Mr. Iceberg. Fight your fight, be stagnant and pushy, but please if it does not work, for your own sake, if you find yourself deep in frustration and hate to get up in the morning to go to work and to keep on doing the same old things, start applying elsewhere. Life is to short for that.

Don’t be afraid of the big Goliath that are those old workflows. Maybe he is not that tall after all. But if he is, stay strong. Even if you have to learn a lot, you already know how to start with those usability workflows. And you are good at what you do 😉

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