How to deal with clients who focus on only one aspect of a UX design

A bright red ladybird sits on a green leaf next to some blue flowers
Focus on the flower or the whole garden?

“Is it our duty as UX professionals to ‘train’ clients to embrace the whole of User Experience – or should our starting point be enthusiasm that they’re willing to consider users at all?”

Janet Six, Managing Editor of UXmatters,  collected some answers to that question in her April 2020 Ask UXmatters column. My contribution was to suggest that respecting the client’s vision is a good starting point, and to share the ‘yes and…’ approach which I use to help achieve better results for users.

Carol Barnum, Director of User Research at UX Firm, added her ideas – including the concept of ‘local’ and ‘global’ findings, to help the client to see the context around their area of interest.

Here are my thoughts, extracted from the article:

“The short answer: Enthusiastically embrace their desire to focus on User Experience at all,” replies Caroline. “The longer version: For many years, I believed that it was my duty as a UX professional to train my clients to embrace the whole of User Experience and see things my way. Eventually, I came to realize that as UX professionals, we need to work hard on the user experience of User Experience. One of the things I had to learn was that, if a client has a clear vision of what they want or believe they want from their UX efforts, the least I can do is respect their views.

“That doesn’t mean I would confine myself entirely to giving them only what they want. I try to have a yes, and mentality—although the actual way in which I’d express that view would obviously depend on the circumstances. For example:

  1. Yes, let’s definitely find out which color your customers would prefer. And while we’re doing that, would you mind if I took down a few notes about whether they’ll consider using your product?
  2. Yes, of course, we can learn about that aspect of your service by doing a survey. And as preparation for that, let’s follow survey-methodology best practices and do a couple of interviews on the survey topics first.
  3. Yes, I’d be delighted to set up a usability test for that new feature. And would you remind me whether people can use that feature separately from everything else?

“When a client simply doesn’t want to follow the yes, and approach, I’m trying hard to learn not to push it. Maybe if they find out what they want to find out about today, they’ll consider a wider focus tomorrow. Maybe they won’t. At which point, I gently remind myself that every consultant needs to reread Jared Spool’s ‘Beans and Noses’ now and then.”

image: Caroline Jarrett, creative commons license