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Convincing Stakeholders of UX Research Importance [Survey Results]

Recently we polled the UX community about their budgets, workplace culture and more. One of the reasons why we chose to conduct this study was the fact that our clients often mention problems with gathering funds for tools and respondents from their bosses.

We wanted to learn if this struggle was a widespread problem, or if it was limited to just a portion of the community. In any case, we wanted to learn more about who was struggling the most with this issue and what might be the way to get out of this labyrinth of struggle.

In this article, we’ve gathered a summary of some of the responses that resonated with us the most and described the most frequent struggles among design teams. Based on this data we’ve also come up with a list of tips that might be useful to help you convince your own stakeholders about the value of UX research.

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UX Budget Survey results

The survey contained almost 30 questions. The question that resonated the most with our survey participants was:

How often have you struggled with convincing bosses/executives/other decisive stakeholders about the importance of UX research?”

The answers we got from our participants divided them into two separate groups. Either the participants struggled basically daily with convincing their managers about the worth of good UX research, or the participants had no issue at all because UX research is highly valued in their company.

The answers mentioning the struggles were similar to these examples:

“Any time it comes up. There is an unwillingness to commit time and resources to any sort of testing outside of collecting group feedback from council members.”

“Every single time with very limited success.”

“On a daily basis, to be honest. The UX maturity level here is still very limited.”

“Very often as the company is very UX immature and has started to shift away from being a product development centric company.”

ux budget survey

But not to be all gloomy, there were positive answers as well:

“They know that UX research is very important that they want to spend money for it ;)”

“None at this company, I made sure the support was there before taking the job.”

“No struggles at all. UCD is our core company philosophy.”

“Never, the company is excited by research.”

Despite some positive answers, almost 80% of the answers mentioned a significant level of struggle and lack of understanding from the company. This might sound as if UX job is a purgatory of never-ending arguments with people that seem completely oblivious to the importance of your job. 

Well, it’s not that…mostly. But there is no need to worry, we also asked our participants another question:

“What arguments/information have helped you to convince the key stakeholders about the importance of your UX research, or what do you believe would have helped you? If you are a key decision maker yourself, what has/would have convinced you?” 

Most of the answers, both from users who struggled as well as from those without struggles,  provided valuable insight on how to combat this problem:

“The reason that has worked the most is to tell them that user research helps us reduce the risks of spending time and resources (money) building features or products that users are not going to use, so doing user research can directly have an impact on long-term cost reduction.”

or 

“The biggest way to show the value of research, and this has been the same through my almost 15 year career, is to let stakeholders hear it straight from the users. When presenting research, I ALWAYS include video/audio clips of the users validating a point I am making. And every time, you see ah-ha moments. This is the most valuable way to showcase the value of research.”

Tips to convince stakeholders that UX matters

We used the data above and similar answers to prepare a few tips for you on how to convince your bosses, stakeholders, and colleagues that UX research might not be that bad of an idea.

Show, don’t tell

“Telling stories based on real customers which demonstrate the pain and difficulty they experience. Making stakeholders make decisions where they understand the potential risks and pains from a customer perspective.”

Try and empathize with your manager. They are on the 4th meeting of today, where there is just talk and talk, which wouldn’t be as much of an issue. The problem is when someone is trying to “explain” a topic the manager is not familiar with. There is always someone with a PowerPoint presentation or a sheet or a pie chart. Test recordings speak louder than pie charts and are better at catching the attention of your audience. 

You can try and describe how the participants mentioned this or that, or how this answer means that an issue in the design you have mentioned a month ago is indeed real. That is all well and good, but if you really want to drive your point home, there is no better way than to show real footage of the test at the meeting.

Show your manager a 3-minute clip of a participant, who fits one of your target groups, struggling to fill out the registration form, because the phone number format isn’t specified anywhere. Play them a voice recording of a future user describing their hesitance to use a platform that looks like this, because it seems unsafe.

Many of the respondents described that one or two short recordings like these were much more convincing than a 15-minute long presentation with all the data in complex tables and plots. This is the age of Tik Tok, no one has the attention span for that.

Money talks

ux budget survey

The stakeholders who are usually the hardest to convince about the usefulness of UX research are the budgeting managers and other “money people”. In the end, they see you just as another employee of the company. The company has to look after its bottom line and not waste money on pointless activities.

Unfortunately, UX research tends to be seen as one of these activities. There are some exceptions, but since they are exceptions, there is no need to beat yourself over it. As the “money people” tend to see it, the company is paid for the product and the product will be delivered regardless of the UX research.

Take this fact and turn it to benefit you. There is no need to despair. Approach them with the notion that spending some extra money on the research now will actually save them money in the end. It is a well-known fact that adjusting a Figma prototype is cheaper than re-developing a part of an existing product. 

Also, you can remind them that good usability is a source of satisfied users. Satisfied users will buy the product again as well as other products from the same company. More satisfied users mean more sales, which means more money. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it?

Save time by spending it well

ux budget survey

Based on the answers from our survey, basically, everyone knows this scenario. You present a usability test plan or a UX research timeline at a meeting. Following it would cause a delay in development because the product cannot be developed before the results of testing are analyzed. The lead developer starts immediately complaining about UX being a luxury we don’t have time for, because we are already behind the schedule.

In a case like this it’s best to remind your project leads that it will be their responsibility to rework what they’ve already implemented after we realize there are usability flaws present. Convincing them about this logic is the easier part because no one likes to do the same work twice.

The harder part comes when the devs start arguing with you that your designs are any of these things: “Too fancy”, “Unnecessary”, “No one will use that”, “Of course, they will understand it, we are creating a software for intelligent people” etc. When something like this comes up, it’s crucial that you try to look at it with an unbiased look and consider if there isn’t some truth to it. If you are sure that the complaints are not valid, then you need to solve the real problem hidden behind these statements. All these and similar complaints can be translated into: “It will take too much time/work”. 

To be honest there is no universal tip for this. The best you can do is try and explain your point of view with as many logical arguments as possible. Analytics and architects tend to design only for the needs of the company, not for the needs of the user. Remind them that logically they need to think of the user as well.

Try mentioning that a product that is hard to use won’t be popular and their work will be futile in the end, because no one will use the product.

Additional tips

There are some additional tips, which can help you either alone, or combined with the ones already mentioned:

  • Try explaining the methods you have used – sometimes the other side simply doesn’t completely understand what you are trying to do and that’s why they don’t support it.
  • Cite wrong decisions from the past, how they damaged the company, and explain how they could have been avoided with the UX research.
  • Provide hard facts such as benchmark results, success rates, etc.
getting stakeholders to buy in for ux research

For those looking for a new position: Win by avoiding the battle

An answer about the level of the struggle, which resonated with us the most was:

“None at this company, I made sure the support was there before taking the job.”

This is an answer from a Director of UX Research, who has fought this battle countless times in their past jobs and wanted to make sure that they won’t need to fight it again. We all can learn from this. 

Your time and energy are valuable. When you are choosing a new position you are already taking a big leap of faith. Gather as much information as you can. Many company flaws can be easy to spot during the interview.

Try asking a few of these questions:

  • What UX testing platform do you use?
  • Are you testing on participants, who are not your current user?
    • If yes, how often? How many? How do you recruit them?
    • If not, why? 
  • Does the UX department/team have its own budget? How big is this department/team?
  • Who is the most senior UX specialist in your company and how long are they with the company?

Alternatively, you can get straight to the point:

  • Is UX research a core value for your company?
  • Are there problems with convincing stakeholders to provide funding for the UX testing?

Remember that the professional relationship between you and your company should flow both ways and there is no need to waste your time in an environment where you don’t feel validated or valued.

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The only UX research tool you need to visualize your customers’ frustration and better understand their issues

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Closing thoughts

Convincing your stakeholders, bosses, or colleagues about the importance of your work all over again is exhausting. We know that avoiding it is a personal win, but frankly, it can’t be avoided entirely, not by every UX expert. If you are happy and have no issues at your workplace – Great! We’re happy for you! 

But if you are struggling and you ever need a motivation boost for this fight, remember that each time you win and convince the other side that the UX is worth it, you are getting our community closer to the point where a quote like this:

“I never had this problem. I guess our stakeholders believe in UX research”

won’t be something extraordinary, but a norm. And we think that’s worth the time.

Optimize your UX research processes by using an all-in-one research tool to help you with the studies and their analysis. Register for your free account at UXtweak and start testing today!

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