UX: Inspiring Change

Bringing UX to a World of Engineers

There’s a misconception that computer scientists and engineers don’t care for UX. What I came to realize is that, on the contrary, they tend to love the idea.

Inspiring my colleagues and higher-ups to believe in UX as a key element of success turned out to be hard work, but well worth the effort.

Here are 4 lessons I learned in the process.

1. Speak Their Language

Engineers are intelligent people. They will not be convinced with a “trust me, it’s the right thing to do”. They will demand concrete proof and observable facts.

We even found that the term “UX” itself had little meaning for our staff on its own. As a matter of fact, we decided to distance ourselves from it by using the term “User Research”.

So speak their language: back up your claims with evidence and observable facts. Using a scientific approach to user research will help you communicate what you’re trying to achieve and lend credibility to your suggestions.

Also, be sure your colleagues understand why you’re doing user research. Just as developers need information on a project’s scale or infrastructure, UX designers need to collect data about users’ behavior and mental models to help find mistakes before they happen.

2. Find Early Adopters

Finding early adopters is paramount to inspiring change. Those early adopters will become allies and evangelists that will get your project noticed.

Be sure to identify which behaviours generate the most enthusiasm, and replicate them. This can mean pushing forward a project where you were successful, or finding the right way to make everybody sense that they can make a positive contribution to the project.

3. Show, Don’t Tell

In all likelihood, most people you will be preaching to will be interested, but ultimately indifferent.

You can tell your colleagues how a UX strategy would be beneficial to all their projects. You can tell them 1000 times. The fact is that they’ll probably stop listening after the second time.

They’re not acting in bad faith. They’re just not inspired by your words - probably because they are juggling 56 other priorities and don’t have time to learn new stuff.

That’s why you should concentrate on getting quick results, and showing these results with a tangible, visual example. We found that after going through the full UX process once, most colleagues await it with great enthusiasm.

4. Repetition

Last but not least, be ready to repeat. Don’t be afraid to tell the same story over and over again. You will think that you are being boring and trite, but your colleagues are in over their heads with their own projects: they don’t have time to think about your concerns and what you said at the last meeting. Repeat.