"Make it pretty" - My Boss

1 Apr 2011 - 9:57am
3 years ago
7 replies
725 reads
dickepay
2011
Howdy, I work at an organization that believes having a "Pretty" skin is all you need to have a good User Experience. Has anyone ever run into this, and how does one overcome this. I am literally at my wits end trying to prototype different layouts, and explaining the need for user research/feedback. All comments are welcome, constructive or not.

Comments

4 Apr 2011 - 8:12am
gef05
2010

It can take a long time to overcome this attitude, so here's a few suggestions based on my own experience in dealing with that mentality:

--don't launch an offensive. Keep calm, and tell the boss you'll make sure it looks as good as you can make it.

--react quietly. While working on look and feel follow best practice - "pretty" doesn't mean the user experience has to be bad. Do both at the same time, emphasising to your boss the prettiness, but mentioning the user experience as well.

--ask. Ask if you can spend time getting user feedback - to make sure the user experience is all it can be. All they can say is no. And if they say no, then continue to use best practice.

--be a mole. Slowly work away at the mindset over time. Mention best practice for user experience when you can. Always ask to test the impact of the site on the users. Take the opportunity - quietly and calmly - to point out when something sucks, and how it could be better.

Your situation isn't unique - most UX/IXDers have been there before. It is frustrating, but time and diplomacy can work wonders. Good luck.

27 May 2011 - 3:53pm
Shaun Bergmann
2007

You're not alone.  As ubiquitous and obviously valuable UX/IxD work seems to us, there are still -- unfortunately -- a LOT of companies out there that have yet to see the light.
To generalize from my own experience, these companies seem to be working in a sector of industry that has not been too tightly tied into the development of UI.  Only "recently", with the advent of all the smart phones and affordable touchscreens are old school 'physical hardware based control' firms incorporating more complex User Interfaces into their products.
It's no fault of their own that they have been living the last 3 decades on the other side of the valley, unaware of the amount of research and development that's been going into UI, but it can be a tough hurdle to clear in terms of opening their eyes to the value of what it is we do.
If the decision makers in the firm have been living in their own disconnected world for a long period of time, and they're not of the mindset to be open-minded to understanding how fast every single industry is undergoing a rapid process of change, it can be difficult to successfully evangelize what it is you're trying to put across to them.
Difficult, but not impossible.
There are a couple of good books out there that I think would be a powerful addition to the office bookshelf.  (I'd even buy them myself and bring them into the office, leave them laying around like manifesto propaganda).

1. Alan Coopers "'The Inmates are Running the Asylum' -- (why high-tech products drive us crazy and how to restore the sanity)"
-- while I don't agree with the premise of this book that it's absolutely impossible for engineers to become good designers, it is a great eye opener for people in a position of decision making to see the reality of what it is their purporting.
http://www.amazon.com/Inmates-Are-Running-Asylum/dp/0672316498

2. Eric Schaffer's "'Institutionalization of Usability' -- (a step by step guide)"

4 Apr 2011 - 9:37am
Dru
2009

It is an education process and gef05 is correct.  Our Interactive dept provides designs for Management (who sometimes function as a biz owner and always as a stakeholder), and product managers (brand managers if you will), along with other internal biz customers.  GEF05 is right in "dont launch an offensive"...we generally identify a couple of UX components that are essential and then provide, along with the concept, examples of best practices and examples (screen grabs if unable to have web enabled design meeting) of competitors' (who are doing things well with their UX) to support our recommendation for a specific UX circumstance.  Over time the biz owners/stakeholders have started asking for these examples and this is a good thing.  Over more time, in certain instances, they are becoming educated on these practices while learning to think of themselves as the "typical user" role and not their personal preferences.  Yes, time and diplocmacy do make an impact. Hang in there.

27 May 2011 - 3:53pm
DrWex
2006

I would agree with the comments so far and add one point: become your boss's ally. Find out why he wants it to be pretty, and then propose gathering data to support that.

My guess is he doesn't actually care about the prettiness, but rather he thinks that prettiness will serve some business goal that HIS boss cares about. For example, he may believe that prettiness will lure customers away from a competitor - GREAT, let's measure conversion rates. Or maybe he thinks prettiness will bring in new customers - GREAT, let's see how many new customers/day we're getting with the old design and then how many more with the new. Or maybe he'd be up for some A/B testing to see which one gets more conversion/new customers/higher sales/bigger basket sizes etc etc etc.

Given that he's spending money to make it "pretty" he has to expect a return on that expenditure. Focus your work, research, and responses to him on that return and you'll be 90% of the way home.

My bottom bet: He doesn't actually give a rat's ass how pretty it is. If you put up the ugliest Web site in the world and still tripled sales? He'd be happy. Understanding his goals and motivations is every bit as important (maybe more) than understanding the goals and motivations of the people who come to your site.

Best of luck! --Alan

4 Apr 2011 - 11:28am
holger_maassen
2010

Hi,

First of all I like to agree with Gary ...

Selling UX can be really difficult and take a lot of time. But to offer you a better answer I need to know more about your "boss".

Up to now I can point you to two articles of mine:

http://ux4dotcom.blogspot.com/2010/08/walk-while-in-someone-elses-shoes.html

http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/ux-design-planning

 

and further more we had in the last few days a great summit about UX and IA in Denver.

http://ux4dotcom.blogspot.com/2011/04/ia-summit-2011-in-denver-colorado.html

 

and I like to suggest you to have a view at Lou Rosenfeld's presentation:

http://www.slideshare.net/lrosenfeld/beyond-user-research

27 May 2011 - 3:53pm
lachica
2006

Is there any way you can delve further into 'design thinking' with your boss so that you can highlight what he's responding to as 'pretty' might actually be a response to something that is beautifully communicated through design?

Best,
Julie

On Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 12:19 PM, holger_maassen <holger.maassen@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi,

First of all I like to agree with Gary ...

Selling UX can be really difficult and take a lot of time. But to offer you a better answer I need to know more about your "boss".

Up to now I can point you to two articles of mine:

http://ux4dotcom.blogspot.com/2010/08/walk-while-in-someone-elses-shoes.html [1]

http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/ux-design-planning

 

and further more we had in the last few days a great summit about UX and IA in Denver.

http://ux4dotcom.blogspot.com/2011/04/ia-summit-2011-in-denver-colorado.html [2]

 

and I like to suggest you to have a view at Lou Rosenfeld's presentation:

http://www.slideshare.net/lrosenfeld/beyond-user-research [3]

((
27 May 2011 - 3:53pm
netwiz
2010

Ask if you can do some user testing. Include the variants that the others ask for, and also include one that you think will work better. Make it clear it's not a personal thing, it's not about opinions, it's about what actually works for the customer.

  If you can't get approval for proper user testing, try it on other staff who aren't working on the project. Explain the process you followed and what the results are. If you're fortunate, some of the 'pretty' options might work out OK, whilst the core of what you're getting at is the lead feature.

  Video staff, relatives, friends, using the variants, and edit the clips together. Make the full versions available to show the editing isn't fixed. Get permission from participants for this.   Nick

On 4 April 2011 14:52, dickepay <dickerson187@hotmail.com> wrote:

Howdy,

I work at an organization that believes having a "Pretty" skin is all you need to have a good User Experience. Has anyone ever run into this, and how does one overcome this.

I am literally at my wits end trying to prototype different layouts, and explaining the need for user research/feedback.

All comments are welcome, constructive or not.

(((
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