Getting buy-in for user experience (UX) research can be a tough nut to crack. You may encounter stakeholders who don’t fully grasp the advantages of UX, or who are hesitant to invest their limited resources in it. But fear not!
In this article, we explore some common challenges you might face when seeking stakeholder buy-in for UX research. We’ve also gathered insights from UX experts on how to overcome these obstacles. You’ll learn about communicating the value of UX, aligning UX research with business objectives, providing education and training, involving stakeholders, and more.
Plus, we also share a customizable template you can use to make a business case for adopting a UX research tool like Lyssna at your organization. (The template is here, if you want to skip ahead to it!)
With the tips and tools you'll gain from this article, you’ll be well on your way to fostering a culture of user-centered design and enhancing the quality of your products or services.
Why is it difficult to get buy-in for UX?
Why is getting buy-in often so difficult? Let’s explore some of the reasons.
Lack of understanding
Some stakeholders might not fully understand what UX research and UX design are, or how they contribute to business goals. This can make it difficult to gain their support and resources. Some common reasons for lack of understanding can stem from misconceptions about UX research, lack of awareness about the benefits of UX research, limited exposure to UX research, and communication gaps.
Stakeholders may be hesitant to allocate time, budget, and people for UX research if they see it as resource-intensive or if there are competing priorities for limited resources within the organization. This can include constraints such as time, budget, team members, or tools needed to conduct UX research effectively.
Resistance to change
Change can be difficult! Some stakeholders may resist change and be hesitant to invest in something they perceive as new or unfamiliar. This could include fear of the unknown, comfort with current practices, perceived threat to roles or responsibilities, and change fatigue.
Limited financial resources might make some stakeholders hesitant to invest in UX research. This may be due to concerns about the cost of conducting research, allocating budget for UX research tools or software, or dedicating resources for UX research teams.
Stakeholders and teams might feel overwhelmed with other pressing priorities and deadlines, and may perceive UX research as time-consuming or a potential delay in the product development process. This can lead to resistance in allocating time and resources for UX research activities.
Assumptions about what customers want
Stakeholders may have preconceived notions or assumptions about the needs, preferences, and behaviors of their customers or users, which can lead to resistance to conducting UX research. These assumptions may be based on personal opinions, past experiences, or internal biases.
Lack of data
Stakeholders and team members may be hesitant to invest time and resources into UX research if they perceive it as data-intensive or if there’s a lack of readily available data to support the need for UX research. This can be a challenge in situations where data-driven decision making is prioritized or when stakeholders are accustomed to relying on quantitative data for decision making.
Some stakeholders or organizations might have preconceived notions about UX research, which can result in resistance or hesitation toward adopting UX research practices. Common misconceptions might include UX research being time-consuming and expensive, UX research being only for large organizations, UX research being a one-time event, and UX research not being relevant to business goals.
We know, this all sounds like a lot. But there are ways to address and overcome these challenges.
Strategies for gaining stakeholder buy-in for UX
Gaining buy-in for UX research can seem like a daunting task, but there are several strategies you can use to overcome common challenges. To help you navigate this process, we spoke with UX experts who were happy to share their experience and advice.
So, here are our top seven strategies for gaining stakeholder buy-in for UX.
1. Communicate the value of UX
This might be an obvious one, but a good first step in gaining stakeholder buy-in is communicating the benefits and value of UX research in terms that are meaningful to stakeholders.
Here are some tips for how to go about it.
Tailor your message and approach
When communicating the value proposition of UX research, tailor the message to the specific needs and interests of your stakeholders. This might include using business-oriented language, providing tangible examples of past successes, and relating UX research to specific organizational objectives.
According to Zack Naylor, UX researcher and co-founder of Aurelius, overcoming challenges requires a tailored approach. “Some of the most common challenges I’ve encountered when trying to get buy-in for UX research were hearing people say ‘we don't have the budget’, ‘we don't have the time’, or hearing things like ‘we already know what our customers want’.”
The solution? “Being very scrappy and using tools and techniques already available to you typically help for getting buy-in where budget is a concern.”
Highlight the ROI of UX
Highlighting the potential return on investment (ROI) of UX research and its impact on business outcomes can be a good way to gain buy-in.
James Wilkinson, CEO of Balance One Supplements, shares a good tactic for communicating ROI. “It’s essential to communicate the return on investment derived from UX research and design, and how this ROI impacts the firm’s bottom line. The best practice is to use data to show stakeholders how UX design can help increase revenues and profit margins, reduce costs, and/or save time for the company.”
Wondering how you measure the ROI of UX research? This article gives a good overview of measuring the ROI of launched products and estimating the ROI of your future ones.
Address stakeholder concerns
In addition to the value proposition, it's important to address any concerns that stakeholders may have and actively engage in dialogue to build mutual understanding and trust.
2. Align with business objectives
Aligning UX research with your company’s business objectives can be a powerful strategy for gaining stakeholder buy-in. When you frame UX research in the context of how it can directly contribute to achieving business goals and objectives, stakeholders are more likely to see its value and be willing to support it. Here are some ways to do that.
Address specific challenges
Demonstrate how UX research can help address specific pain points or challenges that your organization is facing. For example, if your product is experiencing negative customer reviews, you can position UX research as a tool to understand user needs and preferences, identify pain points in the user experience, and uncover opportunities for improvement.
Use language and metrics that resonate with stakeholders
Similar to tailoring your message, it’s important to use language and metrics that resonate with your stakeholders. This might include using business-oriented terminology and data-driven evidence.
Daniel Chabert, CEO and Founder of web and software development agency PurpleFire, shares the importance of using metrics:
“To effectively communicate the value of UX to stakeholders who may not be familiar with it, I recommend clearly outlining the benefits of having a user-centered approach. This could include metrics like increased user engagement, improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, higher conversion rates, and ultimately more revenue for the company. It’s also important to provide tangible examples through real-world case studies or stories that illustrate how UX has positively impacted users and businesses alike.”
Zack Naylor also strongly believes in speaking the right language for communicating with stakeholders.
“You MUST learn and speak their language. It’s not their job to know the value of UX, so speak in terms they know and care about. Learn about their job, their responsibilities and who/what they’re accountable for. Then you can discuss how UX principles and techniques actually help them achieve their goals!”
Make clear connections between UX research and business goals
It's also important to establish clear connections between UX research and the broader organizational strategy, goals, and priorities. This can help stakeholders see how UX research aligns with the overall vision and direction of the organization, and how it can contribute to its long-term success.
3. Use data and evidence
We mentioned this briefly above, but using data and evidence is another effective strategy for gaining buy-in. It provides objective information that can support the need for further research and validate its potential impact on business outcomes.
Qualitative data, such as user feedback, usability testing results, or user interviews, can provide rich insights into user needs, preferences, and behaviors. It can help stakeholders understand the "why" behind user behaviors and motivations, and can tell compelling stories that highlight the value of UX research.
Quantitative data, such as user analytics, surveys, or performance metrics, can provide numerical evidence of user behavior, preferences, or pain points. This data can help quantify the impact of UX issues or opportunities for improvement, and provide a clear rationale for conducting UX research.
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Sharing case studies or success stories from other organizations or industries that have benefited from UX research can help show its value and potential impact on business outcomes.
Maria Harutyunyan, co-founder of SEO agency Loopex Digital, often uses case studies as evidence when addressing client concerns.
“Some clients are resistant to changing their website’s design or structure, fearing that it may negatively impact their SEO efforts. To overcome this, I present case studies and research demonstrating how UX improvements can lead to better search engine rankings and improved user experience.”
Sharing user stories or testimonials that highlight the impact of UX research on the experiences of your users can be a powerful way to create an emotional connection with stakeholders. User stories can illustrate how UX research can directly impact satisfaction, loyalty, or engagement, and lead to product adoption.
4. Provide education and training
Education can be a highly effective way to gain buy-in for UX, and sharing knowledge and information about UX research and its benefits can help address any misconceptions.
Here are some ideas for how to provide UX research education and training in your organization.
Hosting a workshop is a great way to share the principles and best practices of UX research. You can run workshops virtually or in-person, and tailor them to different levels of expertise. They can include presentations, demonstrations, discussions, Q&As, and hands-on activities to engage participants.
You can also organize training sessions on specific UX research methods, tools, and techniques to help stakeholders build their knowledge. For example, you could focus on topics like user interviews, card sorting, surveys, and prototype testing.
Lisa Richards, CEO and Creator of the Candida Diet, has found success in her business by running UX workshops.
“Collaborative workshops are a highly effective way of involving stakeholders in the UX process, and gaining their approval. UX teams should give stakeholders interactive walkthroughs of major research and design activities, such as user journey mapping, persona creation, wireframe development as well as usability testing. Doing this will give the stakeholders a better understanding of user needs and pain points, and how certain design decisions can help fulfill these needs while elevating the user experience.”
Share documentation and resources
Creating internal documentation and resources on UX research can be a valuable way to educate stakeholders at their own pace. This can include creating written and video guides, templates, and other reference materials. You can make internal resources available through research repositories, internal portals, or a shared drive, and communicate updates via your company’s collaboration app, like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
Peer mentoring and knowledge sharing
Encouraging peer mentoring and knowledge sharing among stakeholders is a great way to foster a culture of learning and continuous improvement. Establishing communities of practice where team members can share their experiences, insights, and challenges related to UX research can create opportunities for learning from each other. You can facilitate this through regular meetups, discussions, presentations, or other collaborative activities.
5. Involve stakeholders in the UX process
When stakeholders actively take part in UX, they’re more likely to understand and appreciate its value. Here are some ideas for how to involve your stakeholders.
Invite stakeholders to participate in research
Involving stakeholders in the UX research process itself, such as inviting them to take part in user testing sessions, usability studies, or design reviews, can be a powerful way to learn about the value of UX research. This hands-on experience can help them see firsthand how UX research provides insights into user behaviors, preferences, and pain points, and how it can inform data-driven decision making.
“The best way to gain buy-in from stakeholders is to involve them in the design process from the beginning. This way, they’re able to understand the value of UX as well as provide feedback that can help improve UX outcomes.” – James Wilkinson
Schedule regular check-ins
Regular check-ins allow for ongoing communication and engagement with stakeholders, ensuring they’re kept informed about the progress of UX research activities, findings, and implications.
For Daniel Chabert, check-ins and updates have been key for gaining stakeholder buy-in.
“Involving stakeholders in the UX process is essential for gaining buy-in as it helps to create a sense of ownership around the user experience. I recommend having regular check-ins throughout the process and involving stakeholders in key decisions related to design and research. I also suggest regularly sharing updates with stakeholders so that they can see the progress made and feel invested in the outcome. This has been effective in gaining buy-in and support for UX initiatives.”
Try Involving stakeholders in the participant recruitment process. They can help identify suitable users for research studies, provide access to relevant user groups, or facilitate introductions to potential participants. A bonus is that this helps ensure your research participants represent your target user group.
6. Conduct a pilot project
Pilot projects are smaller-scale research initiatives that can showcase the value and impact of UX research in a tangible way. By conducting a pilot project, you can give stakeholders concrete evidence of the benefits and value of UX research, which can help in gaining their buy-in and support for future projects.
Here are some key things to consider when running a pilot project.
Define clear objectives and outcomes
Clearly communicate how you’ll conduct the research, what insights you expect to gain, and how those insights can inform decision-making. Having clear objectives and outcomes helps stakeholders understand the purpose and potential impact of the pilot.
Choose appropriate methods and tools
Choose research methods that are appropriate for the pilot project and align with stakeholder expectations. Consider methods such as usability testing, user interviews, or surveys, depending on your research goals and resources.
For your pilot project, you could use low-fidelity mockups or prototypes. According to Leizel Laron, UI/UX Designer at ExaWeb, “an effective way to communicate the value of UX to our clients who may not be familiar with the field is to present mockups or prototypes of the proposed design. Through this, clients will have a better visual understanding of the end goal.”
Share your findings and insights
Be sure to share the findings and insights from your pilot project in a clear, concise, and interesting way using data, visualizations, and narratives. Highlight how the research and tools you used provided insights and solutions to address the identified pain points, and how those insights can drive positive changes or improvements.
7. Identify UX champions
A final tip for gaining stakeholder buy-in for UX research is identifying champions in your organization. Champions are individuals who are enthusiastic about UX and can advocate its value to other stakeholders.
Champions can come from various roles within an organization, such as product managers, designers, developers, marketers, or executives, and can help create a positive culture around UX research, which can ultimately facilitate buy-in from other stakeholders.
“If you've established a rapport with stakeholders and shown you understand their work/goals, you include them in the process as you work to help them achieve the goals you both agreed to. This creates a vested interest from them and you’ve gained an ally to further evangelize the need for UX work, because if you're successful, so are they.”
– Zack Naylor
How to make a business case for UX
Making a compelling case for UX is essential for winning over stakeholders. Using a combination of data, storytelling, empathy, and collaboration is a great way to persuade your stakeholders that UX research is essential in achieving your organization's objectives.
If you want to take your case to the next level and secure buy-in for a UX research tool like Lyssna at your company, we’ve got you covered. We’ve created a customizable template that you can use to create a business case for adopting Lyssna at your org. Simply click the link and it will automatically create a copy on your Google Drive. You can then edit the template by adding or removing information to make it more relevant to your company’s needs.
We hope this article and template will help you in creating a culture of user-centered design at your organization. If you ever have any questions or need some advice, please reach out to our friendly team.
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