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Dealing with Politics in UX Design

Published 7 months ago • 2 min read

Dealing with Politics in UX Design

by Jeff Humble

Dear Reader,

Have you ever worked at a company where getting a survey approved felt like passing a bill through Congress? 🙃

Design deals with the new, and it inherently runs into politics.

The tiniest innovation can feel like a revolution in a slow-moving organization.

When motives and hidden agendas block projects for no apparent reason, it can be de-motivating.

Don't lose ❤️! You're allowed to try to influence company politics. And there are some inspiring places to learn how to deal with politics as a designer.

The Activist Spirit in UX Design

Often, designers deal with company politics like an activist. How can we learn from real activists? Here are 2 quick ways:

1.) Driven by Advocacy

At the core of UX is an extreme empathy for the user's pain points, needs, and desires. This is similar to the empathy that drives activists to fight for the rights of marginalized groups.

How to do it:
Create a user persona for an under-served yet lucrative user type. This "neglected persona" doesn't have to drive all of your decisions, but it can certainly improve them. Use it as a spark for brainstorming out-of-the-box ideas or checking bias.

2.) Against the Status Quo

Activists are known for challenging accepted beliefs. In the same way, UX designers can challenge accepted norms by finding ways to make the company more unique and, thus, more strategic in the market.

How to do it:
Run a team workshop where everyone brings 3 emerging design patterns that competitors are not using. Keep this pattern research in a shared Miro board and use it to inspire new thinking.

The Lobbyist Spirit in UX Design

Okay, this one's for all the realists. Here are 2 ways to do UX like a lobbyist:

1.) Stakeholder Negotiation

Often, you will find yourself negotiating with decision-makers in a project. Like a lobbyist, you don't have any real decision-making power, so the art of negotiation becomes important.

How to do it:
Negotiate with the
BATNA approach (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement) and look for creative solutions in the zones of compromise that overlap between you and your stakeholders.

2.) Influencing Policy

Lobbyists push for new policies that will benefit their constituents. UX designers can do the same for users by infusing user insights into company policy, strategy, and vision.

How to do it:
From customer & competitor research, start a list of the top 3 user insights with the potential to be company-changing. Make a slide for the best insight, including the evidence and a visual. Ask leadership how you might get this insight into the company strategy. Follow their advice and keep campaigning!

UX is already an amalgamation of many professions, so don't be afraid to borrow something from politics.

What political practice can you steal as a UX designer?

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Source, shared by Linus Mimetz in the Guild

Until next week, let the vibe drive! 🦧

Jeff Humble
Designer & Co-Founder
The Fountain Institute

The Fountain Institute

The Fountain Institute is an independent online school that teaches advanced UX & product skills.

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