In the previous article, we discussed the importance of effectively communicating your design decisions as well as how to do it. One important point in communication is to get to know who your audience is.
Explaining your design to another designer would be different from explaining your design to those from different backgrounds, and sometimes the latter could be a serious challenge.
While working on a project or building a product, you will most likely need to deal with different stakeholders, ranging from your client, product managers, engineers, marketing team, etc. The thing is, each stakeholder might have different perspectives, and not all of them have the same understanding of design.
To avoid your discussion with those stakeholders going into a chaotic state and to convince them of your design decisions, having good communication is key. As a designer, you need to have the mindset to be open with others; either it’s you that communicates something to them or you get feedback from others.
Spend some time learning about the main considerations for each role. Each stakeholder is evaluating your work through a different lens.
Before the discussion, you can do your own research by considering a few questions, such as:
What role does each person play in the project?
What authority, skill, or goal does their role involve?
How is their design knowledge?
What do they hope to gain from this presentation?
What do they expect from the project?
You will be presenting the web redesign project to the sales team. In your presentation, it is necessary to address how the choice of redesign will boost sales or conversions, as it is something that this particular stakeholder is most concerned about.
When you’re having a meeting with engineers, you need to consider that some designs can be tricky to implement. Meanwhile, some of their goals are to make the system work correctly while minimizing rework.
Knowing this, you can explain more about how the design you created is something valuable and necessary for users, and you probably need to brainstorm with them on your design process from the start.
A project manager will focus on things like project deadlines and budgets. During your discussion with them, be sure to explain your progress updates and how the next plan will stick to the time and budget.
There's always the possibility that the discussion will go out of track. The stakeholder with whom you are meeting may ask a question that is outside the scope of the current meeting or even your field of work. To avoid this, state the focused topics you'll be discussing throughout the session, as well as the overall goal, at the beginning of your presentation.
In some cases, there are also times when multiple problems or issues must be addressed. Determine the priority when this occurs. Which issues must be addressed first? Which problems must be addressed first in terms of project timelines? Priority decisions must be made in order to avoid becoming overwhelmed by too much feedback and input at once.
The meeting doesn’t end with you explaining your design. Additionally, you must engage in the discussion with others and pay attention to their suggestions and criticism. However, you also need to be careful because, occasionally, design concepts fail because the feedback is not directed at the project's objectives. To keep it on track, you might also need to guide the conversation.
After you justify your design decisions, you can ask questions regarding the goals of the project, such as "How do you think the solution I proposed meets our goal of increasing engagement?"
Listen and take notes on every piece of feedback. This note is necessary to avoid repetitive discussion about the same thing, and there’s always a possibility that a stakeholder will follow-up his/her question some time later.
Even though it's important to be open to diverse viewpoints, you can always speak up and share your opinions from the designer's perspective if you think something could go wrong.
All in all, it's important to keep in mind that you should design for users instead of stakeholders.
Stakeholders are intended to be your partners in decision-making around your designs. Therefore, you shouldn't merely interpret their advice directly. Although it's crucial to pay great attention to what they say, you still have the choice to decline or give another alternative.