Dear Uday: What do I do when stakeholders expect me to “design it like they do on Amazon”?

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    Teena Singh, UX Insights and Strategy, ServiceNow: Do you have some good “rebuttals” if a Stakeholder asks you to “design it like it is on Amazon and/or iPhone?” 


    Uday GajendarUday Gajendar: Great question! In enterprises, we’re constantly asked to make a tedious, difficult, bizarrely complex product just like a cool consumer app we all use on our phones. I don’t fault stakeholders who might be frustrated with the complexity of enterprise apps and sites, and want to wave a magic wand. “Making it like Snapchat should fix it!” It’s human nature, after all. Instead, I’d encourage you to use the Socratic method. Be curious, and encourage the stakeholder to probe their own suggestion. Have them answer back what is it that they’re drawn to about [cool app]. Is it the visuals? The interaction? The navigation? The layout? Have them walk down a journey of UX touchpoints. At each point, have them answer exactly what the problem is that they think [cool app] is solving. And is that the same problem we are solving, for the same market or user type? Are they the same contexts and goals? A word of caution: be careful not to shame stakeholders. Instead, have a collaborative discussion, a “teachable moment” for everyone. Who knows, maybe “making it like [cool app]” could actually open up new paths of exploration, especially if the stakeholder is invited to be part of that process of inquiry.

    Do you agree with Uday? What else might you suggest—or do differently? Please share your own advice in the comments. 

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    One Response to “Dear Uday: What do I do when stakeholders expect me to “design it like they do on Amazon”?”

    1. Uday articulates very well how to use a common expression of a business opportunity or pain to open their minds and others’ to 1) the characteristics of great design, 2) of crappy design and 3) how much work good design takes.

      Once they see bad design, they can’t UNsee it!

      2 additional points to complement Uday’s: 1) While helping them understand how great and poor product design can be informed and directed, also help them to articulate (even tacitly commit) how their own org’s people can proceed in discovery and design work.
      2) We’ll never know how Apple and Amazon actually generate their designs, so if we don’t help them visualize how their org can do it, we can appear to be making an argument that “it can’t be done here”. Whether due to timid leadership, status quo culture, groupthink, or immature product development capabilities.
      I’ve seen that conclusion end their interest in a real solution to “tedious, difficult, bizarrely complex” products. Even truncate any nascent possibility of fostering great design in their org. Often this conclusion is just politically cover, of course.


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