Imagine you’re at the head of the table. Your design team just presented you with two different user interface designs for your project. Both seem reasonable. Both seem usable. And to make things even more confusing, your design team has told you that both will work. How do you make a decision?
I’ve seen hundreds of stakeholders in this situation make off-the-cuff decisions based on their gut, or based on their subjective opinions and preferences. If you have a room full of stakeholders, you can bet egos get involved making it even more complicated. Wouldn’t it be nice to remove subjectivity and ego from the equation and make a more informed design decision?
It’s possible, and it starts with a simple inquiry and level setting with the team. If you’ve followed a user-centered design process, the answers to these questions should be at the ready. If not, these questions will help you identify what critical information is missing from your user experience design effort.
Next time you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself, and your team, the following:
Who are we designing for?
You can’t evaluate design options without first understanding who you’re designing for. As a reminder to yourself, and your team, ask your designers to describe the end users they are designing for, and make sure you highlight their relative priority to your organization. The most important users are often top of mind for everyone (shoppers on your ecommerce site, CTOs evaluating your enterprise software, etc.), but don’t forget to address other critical user types such as internal customer support staff that use your website as a reference when helping customers.
What use cases are we solving for?
Next, ask your designers to describe the key use cases end users will need to accomplish with the design. For an ecommerce website, these might include finding a product and later finding support content on how to use or return a product. These should be prioritized as well. With this in mind, you can review your design options to determine which approaches best satisfy the top priority users and use cases.
What is the strategic purpose behind this design?
The strategic purpose is deeper than a set of use cases focused around end user needs. It’s more closely aligned with the purpose of your business. This frequently involves uber goals such as reducing customer support call volume, capturing sales leads, selling products, improving user engagement, or increasing ad impressions or click-through. If the designs you’re evaluating don’t support your strategic purpose, they’re not working.
In my experience, after going through this type of inquiry, it’s rare to see multiple completely equal design options available simultaneously. Asking these questions should make your decision making process more efficient and less prone to conflicts (or hurt feelings). In the end, user research and usability testing are still necessary to test your assumptions.
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