user advocacy

Fight for your users!

I went out for coffee with a Product Manager friend recently. Over out lattes he lamented that he wanted to redesign a legacy product with a user centered design. Unfortunately, his team dismissed his idea and wanted to rely instead on internal industry expertise and best practice. This poor product manager is not alone in his struggles; I’m sure most internal user advocates can relate.

Keeping the user, or customer, front and center in your organization is better for business. According to Gartner, 89% of marketers report planning to compete primarily on customer experience. PWC reports that there are four pillars of customer experience on which companies compete. These are data driven understanding, tech enabled engagement, human-centered design, and customer focused operations.

Companies are starting to use human-centered design and design thinking to solve problems for the customer. In fact, 10% of Fortune 100 companies are advocates for design thinking. Think about that – 10% of the 100 largest and most profitable companies employ creative problem solving. The impact this has on customer and user experience is huge!

“But alas, my company hasn’t seen the light”

Becoming an internal advocate for users doesn’t have to be impossible. There are a few inexpensive (or even free!) ways to demonstrate the value of user advocacy to your higher-ups

Ask for budget for a small pilot project

An investment of even $5,000 can have huge returns. Human Factors International has a selection of ROI calculators if you need some fuel for your boss.

What your project is and where you are in the process will determine the best value for user advocacy. It may make the most sense to spend it on user research if you’re earlier on in the project. If you’re farther along in your process it may be user-centered design. There are a ton of user research and usability technologies out there are quite inexpensive. If you’re in the design phase, a $5,000 investment can see your most challenging page designed (or redesigned) in a week.

Have a budget but it’s tiny? Start with research.

User research is typically easier to advocate for, so it’s a great place to start. A strong foundation of user research allows you to make more strategic business and design decisions. Not to mention the money it saves down the line.

According to the Systems Sciences Institute at IBM solving user problems in the testing phase costs 10x as much as in the planning/design phase, and solving problems post-launch in the maintenance phase can cost 100x as much.

Different types of user research methodologies have different price points, but a lot of it can be done inexpensively with online tools. The value of these tools relies heavily on the interpretation and analysis of the data, so be sure you’re not misreading what your users do and report, or worse: leading them to the answer you want.

Literally no budget at all? Start small and be stealthy

Take a small project that doesn’t have a tight impending deadline and get user feedback in any way you can. If you don’t have access to real users get creative with guerrilla user research activities. Check analytics, talk to your customer support teams and sales people. Ask someone who is surrounded by your users day-in and day-out to act as their voice in planning and design sessions.

No matter what you do measure everything!

When you can point to a real, measurable impact as a result of your quick-and-dirty user input you’ll have a way easier time selling your higher-ups on a formal user advocacy program. These could include user-centered design or formal user research activities.

Keep track of task success rates, time spent on tasks, the use of search versus navigation, user error rates, reported expectations, and overall satisfaction. These KPIs should give you enough evidence to get budget for your next project.

Don’t get discouraged if it takes longer than you had anticipated for people to see the light. No one likes being told that their way of doing something is anything less than the best. It will inevitably take time. When your team or your company eventually comes around you will be the resident leader for user advocacy.

Good luck!

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