How to Annoy a UX Designer

By Peter Hornsby

Published: November 1, 2011

“In this column, I’ll take a look at some of the questions that can arise on a project team—and how they should and should not be answered.”

The relationship between client and designer does not always work out as smoothly as we would wish, despite the best efforts of all concerned. In this column, I’ll take a look at some of the questions that can arise on a project team—and how they should and should not be answered. I hope these raise a smile—and possibly help you tackle the next awkward client conversation you encounter.

Questions UX Designers Ask Their Clients

First, let’s look at some some of the challenging questions UX designers often ask—and some answers they might get in response.

UX designer:

Have you got a set of requirements for this project?

Client:

Worst answer—Have we! We figured this stuff was pretty easy, so one of the guys has produced a set of designs using PowerPoint and Paint. They’re really great, just what we want, so you can just put them into Visio or whatever it is you guys do.

Better answer—Well, we have a clear idea about what we want to do as a business, but we’re concerned we don’t understand our users perhaps as well as we should. Can you help us with that?

Best answer—Sure, here you go. (Handing over a set of clear, objective requirements that show an understanding of what the business is trying to achieve and what users are trying to achieve.) We’d appreciate your thoughts if you feel we’re missing any opportunities.

UX designer:

What do we know about our users?

Client:

Worst answer—Oh, I’ve been working in this business for 20 years now, and so has Dave our sales guy, so yeah, we know these schmucks. They’re people like us, basically. Only not so smart—I mean, hey! They buy our products, right? Right!

Better answer—Well, we think we have a pretty good understanding, but it would help to check. Can you help us get that sort of insight?

Best answer—Sure, we regularly have interviews and focus groups with our users, plus regular surveys on our sites. What do you want to know?

UX designer:

I’ve produced a first set of wireframes using Visio, and I’d really like your input on the design at this early stage.

Client:

Worst answer—Uh … I’m not trying to criticize your design vision here, but shouldn’t there be some colors in this? And maybe pictures rather than those boxes with Xs in them? Hey! What’s this Lorem Ipsum? Have you been outsourcing this work? We’re not paying you to do that!

Better answer—I love the minimalist style! And this kooky language! Can you do this in Klingon, too? We’re targeting the site at nerds, and they’ll really love this stuff.

Best answer—I like the page layout, but I’m concerned there isn’t going to be enough room for the promotional material we’ll need to put there. Can you take a look at that?

UX designer:

You obviously sell to a wide range of people. Who are your main customers?

Client:

Worst answer—Everybody. This site has to sell to everybody equally. You’re the designer. Make it happen.

Better answer—I’m not sure. I can dig out any information we have if that would help?

Best answer—We have a number of key target customers. Our marketing team has worked up some profiles if you’d like to see them? I can talk you through them and highlight who we sell to most at the moment and the customers we want to develop.

“Clients … ask their fair share of questions that demonstrate less understanding of a UX designer’s role than we might like.”

Questions Clients Ask UX Designers

Of course, it’s not only UX designers who ask difficult questions. I’ve also known some clients to ask their fair share of questions that demonstrate less understanding of a UX designer’s role than we might like.

Client:

I’ve shown your design to my wife, and she doesn’t like it. I need you to change everything. Can you still hit the deadline?

UX designer:

Worst answer—Seriously? Your wife? You sell a lot to her?

Better answer—I think it would be useful to test the design with customers and refine the design based on that feedback.

Best answer—It’s great to have input from your wife. May I speak to her so I can better understand her concerns? That way, I can focus my attention on the areas that will make the most impact first.

Client:

Can you also do all of the coding for this project?

UX designer:

Worst answer—You’re kidding, right? You’re employing me as a UX designer, and you want me to code? Sure, I’ll hack something together. Perhaps we should discuss my hourly rate?

Better answer—I’m sorry, that’s not really my area of expertise.

Best answer—I’m afraid that’s a specialized job, but if you have someone who can do the coding, I’ll be happy to work closely with him to make sure we deliver a product that meets your expectations.

Client:

I need you to make sure we come top of Google’s results page every time someone searches for any of our 1,000 products. I don’t want to pay for advertising though.

UX designer:

Worst answer—Sure, no problem. I’m afraid that’s quite an expensive undertaking and could take some time. Perhaps we should discuss my hourly rate?

Better answer—I’m afraid that’s not possible given the proprietary nature of the Google search algorithm.

Best answer—I’m afraid Google uses a very complex search algorithm that they’ve designed to prevent that, but if we could focus on a few key offerings, I think I should be able to help you.

Client:

We’ve already designed and coded the application. Could you just come in at the end of the project and fix the user interface? It shouldn’t take too much effort.

UX designer:

Worst answer—BWAHAHAHA! Sure, I’ll do that. You might want to allocate some budget to making changes once I’ve ripped this thing apart. Perhaps we should discuss my hourly rate?

Better answer—If you’ve already coded it, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to help, but I’m happy to review what you’ve done.

Best answer—I’m happy to take a look and make some recommendations. Once we’ve tackled this project, I’d like to speak to you about how I could add more value by getting involved earlier in your project process.

I’d like to hear from you about what kinds of questions you’ve asked your clients and they’ve asked you—and what you answered and would have liked to have said. Please post your comments below!

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