Getting sign off on a UX project in less than 60 seconds


Too often CEO’s or senior managers are too busy, or don’t see value in attending hours long usability sessions.  There are many tips and tricks to get them there, providing food, drinks, bribery, but often times it just isn’t feasible.  The truth is you don’t necessarily need them to be at these sessions to make them truly appreciate the value of your work.  Instead you can still create a high impact impression by extracting the most valuable, high impact clips from your usability sessions and instantly proving the major problems of your website.

Usability testing sessions

Watching anyone either continually fail or continually ease through a usability testing session can become a little tedious.  Watching multiple users can be even more tedious and time-consuming for even the most seasoned UX professional, let alone a senior manager who doesn’t really understand the process.  The danger could be that after one session or an hour with not much happening they decide to leave the recording session altogether with a poor impression of the day.  So why do we continue to try to make our managers attend long sessions that have the potential to hinder and not help our cause to get our managers attention?  If a manager sits in a session where the user has performed well and leaves, what will be their honest impression of the final bill for the day / weeks / months worth of work?  Will they understand the true ROI of the session? Perhaps not, and perhaps your chance of getting further budget has been fatally harmed.

Create impact

Many user testing participants have issues at the same section of a session.  Usually you will get at least one of these participants who will completely melt down at the same part of the session.  These moments can often be punctuated with the odd expletive, “sh*t, f*ck”, or a classic one liner like “Are you sure your website is not broken?”, or if you are lucky both “Your website is f*cked cos that is correct address and postcode combination”.  You absolutely have to use these moments to your advantage to create a high impact presentation in under 5 minutes.

Pick apart the video logs of your tests and find the moment where a user completely fails a task, or utters some kind of rant about your website and use your editing software to condense that moment into a short clip, between 5 and 60 seconds.

Once you have done this, put the clip into a 3 page slide deck, with the clip being on the second page.  On the first page use a few small bullet points to set the scene to lead into the clip you have made.  Then do whatever you have to do to get 5 minutes of your manager’s time.  I do not mean set a meeting, but try to catch them when they are in their office and have the deck ready to go on a USB stick.  Tell them you only want 5 minutes and then you will leave them alone, but that what you want to show them has serious ramifications for the business.

On slide 3 break down the true impact this problem is having to the business in real terms.  Use language and terms your manager will understand and emphasise the true potential cost that leaving this problem is having to the business.  Check out my post on how UX can get the budget they want, for more help on this.

Use this wisely

It is important to use this technique wisely and don’t choose clips where you have not seen a pattern of users having problems on the same section of the test.  You have to stay true to your principals and do not want to be selling a problem to your manager which is a complete edge case.  However, if you do see a pattern, use the worst clips to help you get sign off for projects in less than 60 seconds and create high impact presentations that will make your manager sit up and listen to the true value you can give to the business.

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Update: This method can also work well if you do not have budget for a project, but already know there is a major problem on the site.  Go guerilla, test 5 users out of hours without working up a plan, or methodology, just in a quick session and then use the footage to help you get sign off for the project.

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