How Do You Get Other Departments To Care About The User?

Posted By Debbie on May 6, 2016

When I do public speaking, a question I get nearly every time goes something like this:

I’m an entry/mid-level UX practitioner at a small/large/famous company. It looks like nobody outside of the UX team is thinking about our users and personas. How do I get the developers/artists/product managers to be more user-centered?

My standard answer isn’t good news, sorry.

First, I’m so sorry that you are working somewhere where you are seeing one or more teams literally not care about the user. Maybe they care only or heavily-primarily about business needs or just shipping it no matter how easy it is or isn’t to use.

Second, if you are entry or mid-level in the company, it’s not your job to get entire teams or departments on board with anything. Step 1, release yourself from the expectation that you can or should be able to get that buy-in.

It’s normally top down.

Someone a few levels above you decided that it’s more important to release software quickly. Or make it pretty on the assumption that well-visually-designed is really all it needs.

This is the job of the Head or Director of UX. If your company doesn’t have one of those, that’s also a sign that the company doesn’t really buy into UX… at least not as its own specialized thing. If lower level UX people answer to an artist, creative director (without a UX background), product manager, or engineer, this is a potential sign that UX isn’t really respected at this organization.

If there is a Head or Director, that person needs to be working with other teams and departments to make sure people understand what UX does, why it’s not something you circumvent, and why focusing on the users should be the top priority.

Again, this isn’t your job. There is no magic thing I can say that will make all the non-UX product managers stop thinking that UX research is a waste of time and money. This has to come from someone with the right level of authority who can command respect as a subject matter expert.

Perhaps a workplace mismatch?

That’s a tough environment in which to be someone whose entire job is to think of the user first. I find many UX practitioners give us and quit that environment. And if you choose that too, all of us in the UX world would understand.

There are companies out there who get UX, prize it, take it seriously, and don’t need convincing that UX is something special, meaningful, and worth the time and money. You might be happier working there.