UX Designers Aren’t Always Right: Part II – Making Things Right
How To Make Things Right
Last time, we talked about how UX designers can sometimes get so wrapped up in our ego that it can be hard to recognize the fact that there was some mistake in our UX design. It’s okay – this can be an opportunity to build more trust amongst your team and to create an even better user experience.
Be Solution Oriented
The best way to make things right is to just get it out in the open. The reasons why something went wrong are not nearly as important as fixing the problem itself. Don’t re-hash the history. That usually sounds like excuse-making. Instead, figure out what needs to be done to move on. Be direct and clear about what happened (“I was wrong” or “I made a mistake”), but also go straight to the solution and focus on action.
Tell them what needs to be done to correct the problem and outline a clear plan for doing so. Most stakeholders are results-oriented, so identify what the impact will be and when they can expect it to be done. Communicating a sense of urgency and willingness to go above and beyond on correcting the issue will help establish the trust you need to move forward.
When you make yourself part of the solution, you’re also making yourself indispensable: they need you to help correct this problem and that reinforces trust.
The Blame Game
It’s also important to remember that some people just want to know who to blame for the problem and that’s it.
It may seem unfair, but stakeholders may need a scapegoat so they can explain it upstream to their own bosses. A good stakeholder will own the mistake with you, but even if they don’t, you’ll get a swifter resolution if you own up to what happened just to keep things moving forward. Once the source of the mistake has been identified, people usually feel better about moving on.
That means there may be times when you, as a leader, will need to own up to mistakes that might not have been within your control. While it’s unlikely that you’re solely responsible for a failure on a project that involves a team of people, it’s still worthwhile to admit your part (however small) in getting the team to where you are now. This may result in ‘falling on your sword’ and taking the hit for the express purpose of bringing closure. It’s not always advisable, but if everyone is pointing fingers, it might be the only way move on.
Actions Speak Louder
No matter how it comes about, when you see that you’re wrong and you’re willing to admit it, go straight to the business of reconciling the project. Focus on action, propose a solution, communicate urgency, and be willing to hustle. Sometimes you’ll have to make quick decisions to avoid ambiguity and keep things on track. Your reaction to a mistake will speak volumes about you as a person and set you up to build trust with everyone going forward. Recognizing when you’re wrong and proposing a solution is one of the most important ways you can build rapport with your stakeholders so they’re more likely to trust you with the next decision.
As designers in a creative process, we can become especially protective of our work and unable to see the flaws in it. Yet if we really expect to be effective with other people, we have to learn to identify our mistakes, set aside our ego, and work toward a resolution. This is an important part of making sure that our expertise remains at the center of the conversation.
Without the trust of our stakeholders, we’re limited in our ability to influence the design of our own projects. But once that trust has been established, our stakeholders learn to value our expertise, trust our instincts, and support us on the most important design decisions. Whether we’re right or wrong, we have the opportunity to build long-term trust and make sure that we create the very best user experience.
This post is adapted from the book Articulating Design Decisions: Communicate with Stakeholders, Keep Your Sanity, and Deliver the Best User Experience by Tom Greever and published by O’Reilly Media. Used by permission.
Tom Greever — UX Director at Bitovi, a front-end design and development consulting company
Tom Greever helps companies and organizations design better websites and apps. He has worked with both small startups and large corporations across many different industries. You can hire him to design your app, train your team, or speak at your next event. He lives in Illinois with his wife and five kids. He is probably cleaning up the house right now.