What if the client says no?

Why after all the research and solid recommendations do clients say no?  Why do they want to make changes that do not fit into the strategy of the site redesign or meet their customers’ requirements?  How can this be managed? 

I feel fortunate to have been on both sides of the fence, from the prospective client and, now researching and providing User Experience Research (UX) consultancy with Objective Digital.  

One of my biggest frustrations while working client side in an Online Marketing Manager capacity was the reluctance by co-workers and management to embrace the recommendations prepared and presented by an UX agency.  In my experience there are five main reasons.  I discuss these below, with what I believe are the main reasons behind them and how both the UX agency and the Client Project team can manage these concerns to get the “green light” with the recommended design project. 

1. The anticipated cost and time to implement the build/redesign.  How many times have you presented your UX project recommendations only to hear “How much will this cost?”

Reason: Management concern over anticipated $ and time to spend building UX recommendations.  Other factors could be previous company experience in similar IT projects or a backlog of other work involving the IT department, which puts this project down the list.

Solution:  For one business I previously worked for, I built up the mantra with IT and Senior Management “A re-evaluation and redesign every five years”, to highlight the fact that once a site has been built it cannot stay the same forever.  Even purely from a design/branding point of view it will need to be updated regularly to match the business marketing communications.  New technology and supporting changing business interests are also key reasons.  

Some questions to ask the business if such concerns are raised:  How much will it cost you not to update or change your website?  Lost prospective clients, lost unsatisfied current clients who are comparing your business website with your competitors’ websites?  Are there customer complaints, legal requirements, business drivers or technical performance reasons also driving this change? 

Forming a strong UX advocate within the Senior IT team is always worthwhile, and involving that person in the initial pitch and UX agency selection process is a way to start form that support. 

2. Pride in the existing site – it’s worked well for the last x years, why change it now?  I worked on a large transactional website redesign project where one key stakeholder said “we updated this site seven years ago, its working fine and it doesn’t need to be updated again”.   Of course the project did go ahead. 

Reason: Unwillingness to change or that particular person was heavily involved in the previous project and sees change as an affront to their previous project involvement.

Solution: Highlighting competitor or relatable industry websites can often demonstrate the changes needed.  Often I will frame the changes are needed purely from an updating design to adhere to the changing brand guidelines, with any transactional/technological updates needed to offer a better customer experience.   Also, assuring that they will be involved in the process to use their experience from the last update is also worthwhile.

3. Business divisions “prime real estate” stoush.  This has probably been my most frustrating area to deal with.  Business divisions jockeying for position, especially on the home page, is something all UX are familiar with.  The rationale given along the lines of we represent 40% of income to the business, so should have 40% of space on the home page.

Reason: Each division wants to be recognised for the value they bring to the business and represented accordingly

Solution:  When interviewing the business unit stakeholders, ascertain and highlight what the key areas of their business are vs. what key information needs to be represented online for them.  When presenting the project recommendations outline the wealth of areas in the business that need to be included in the site (and not just business units).  Remind them about customer website usage – it shouldn’t have to all be on the home page – as long as there is an easy-to-see access point interested site visitors will be able to find your business divisions information.  The recommended IA and templates will help address this issue. 

4. Armchair web UX designers.  We have all worked on projects where the Accountant or BDM provides strong feedback re: the actual design of the site, more so at the template/prototype phase. 

Reason: Deep down these people have a call to be a web-designer.  Maybe not the skill, but definitely a calling!

Solution: Typically these people are not involved in the project team but want to provide feedback from their experience with the site at the start of the project.  Tact is the key, thank them for their input and say you will review this and provide this to the Project team, to help plan the IA and template design. 

5. Dealing with strong personalities.  I have attended many a workshop over the years where I left with the impression that who dominated the conversation was expecting to get their business area best represented online.  Controlling the situation within the confines of a workshop can be challenging.  Where the rationalisation of the situation and justification on UX recommendations will occur is during the user review and research phase.    Of course the next challenge is IA and template sign-off.  Here often, this personality type will again reiterate their initial requirements. 

Reason: Often other frustrations relating to User Centred Design outside of this project could be surfacing.

Solution: Often it’s a matter of using interviews with staff to get them to really highlight their key requirements in terms of what information or transactions has to be represented online, and what has to be better supported through other business means or channels.   Also, try to remove these people from being in the actual Project team as it can distract from the core project and tasks/priorities at hand.   Website analytics can sometimes assist if they are focussing on an area that is not essential to the business.

Lastly, managing this feedback often relies on the key client contact, usually the Online Marketing Manager or Project Manager.  I cannot underestimate the value of having a staunch UX advocate in the client mix to help manage this feedback and to keep the project on track, and the more the User Centred Design ethos can be spread within the organisation the better!  Often this contact will give a UX Agency a heads up in terms of ways to pitch your presentation and proposal, and can forewarn of any anticipated hostilities before they happen. 

Managing these issues throughout the development path as they arise will help control possible hiccups throughout the project.  


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About Objective Experience

Objective Experience is your partner for customer experience strategy, research, design and usability testing. Our team of passionate Customer Experience Consultants uncover insights from your customers to optimize customer journeys across all digital and physical channels – mobile apps, websites, systems, shopper and retail. We research on how customers interact with products, services and environments through interviews, surveys, focus groups, desk research, eye tracking and usability testing. Actionable recommendations are developed from our in-depth observations and testing. Our partners and clients come from a wide range of businesses and industries - from large financial institutions and government organisations to technical consultancies, Universities and not-for-profit businesses. Objective Digital Holdings Pty Ltd has offices in Sydney (Objective Experience Sydney) and Singapore (Objective Experience Singapore). Eye Tracking, CX, UX, Usability Testing, Shopper Research & Design Thinking across Australasia and South East Asia.

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