Get your clients to value UX

Ollie Francis

Ollie Francis

Digital strategist, UX designer & founder at Deckchair


Written by Ollie Francis

The more I work on digital projects the more I realise that not only does everyone involved have to understand the true value of UX, they need to actually take part.

Without everyone experiencing and understanding the results of evidence-based, user-centred design, UX just becomes another commodity, another collection of services and outputs with little value.

UX is a process, not an output. It’s a process that has to be done collaboratively and continually if you want a website, app or other digital platform to continue to thrive. This is challenging.

I believe it means that UXer’s need to become effective coaches and mentors so that UX skills can be nurtured and maintained. Our clients and agencies need to dedicate time and money to ensure their staff develop the skills needed to properly participate in and measure their digital projects.

This means planners, project managers and account managers, client-side and agency-side, have to take UX more seriously.

Where do we start?
  • Collaboration is at the heart. In my experience, the more time spent together, the better
  • Create a nurturing environment. We have to create a space to be together that inspires people to learn. The client also needs to create spaces and allow team members to take the time to learn
  • Openness, trust and clarity are essential. Everyone needs to not only hear the raw, uncut truth, they need to be trusted to do their part and be able to articulate effectively what they discover to everyone else
  • Workshop structure is key. We need to use engaging exercises to make the process fun and involving. Co-design, for example, is a structure that can be very powerful

This all sounds great but how do we put this into practice? How do we inspire our clients to take UX seriously?

Sharon Tanton

Sharon Tanton

Creative Director of Valuable Content and Pub School teacher. On a mission to help you create marketing people love.


Written by Sharon Tanton

Collaboration has been on our minds a lot this year, and it’s key to Pub School’s success.

Although we deliberately set out to create a group learning programme, we’ve been surprised and delighted by the results that collaboration between group members brings. People learn way more and make faster progress when they’re doing it together in a group compared to say, doing an online course on their own.

In terms of how we make it happen, I think there’s an element of self-selection involved. We talk a lot about the benefits of group working in our marketing, and the people who’ve been on the course talk about it too, so I don’t think anyone would sign up for Pub School if they weren’t open-minded about sharing their ideas and supporting others – two key drivers for collaborative success.

I think the fact we’re in a pub, rather than in our office or a more corporate space, makes for a good collaborative atmosphere.

It’s a level, neutral playing field, and the fact it’s a place people associate with good times helps. The roaring log fire, flowers on the table, coffee, cake and amazing hospitality of Fiona – the pub landlady – make people feel looked after and relaxed. Both of those qualities help people to think creatively, and talk comfortably. Again, both of those things make collaboration easier.

We build a lot of time into the course for people to talk and share ideas. Exercises are designed so that people can compare experiences and thoughts, and as many important connections and ‘light-bulb moments’ are made during this time, as are during the time we’re ‘teaching.’

The group is deliberately small. Small enough to sit around one long table in our local pub. (I think this matters – any bigger and it would be more difficult to foster the feeling of all being in together. Eye contact and real listening help.)

Basecamp is the useful and user-friendly online tool which we use to stay in touch between sessions. It goes without saying that good communication matters in any collaborative project. When people are only meeting every couple of weeks it’s good to make them feel anchored to a process so they don’t drift off. We’re clear on the journey we’re taking people on – signposting where we’ve been, where we are now, and what’s coming next.

So if I was to pull together a checklist for effective collaboration from this, I’d say.

  • Be open and upfront about your desire for collaboration.
  • Talk about why you’re collaborating. What you hope to achieve, together.
  • If you’re able to meet in the real world, pick somewhere that makes people feel comfortable and where it’s easy to talk.
  • Build time into meetings for real talking and listening, not just exchanging information.
  • Value everyone’s input.
  • Keep communicating.
  • Keep sharing the journey – what you’ve achieved, what’s coming next.
  • Share the vision.
  • Look after people – feed them cake!
Jess Lewes

Jess Lewes

Business development director at People For Research


People For Research website

Written by Jess Lewes

As specialists in recruiting participants for UX research and usability testing my experience is that user recruitment is often the last piece of the puzzle in UX and design, and often it is the part that is cut if budgets won’t stretch. Overall, not enough time and resource are allocated to this part and although there are different reasons for this in each instance, I think it boils down to one of the three following reasons: user recruitment is considered to be easy, it is considered to be less important, or there is a lack of knowledge as to how recruitment actually works, especially good recruitment.

Good recruitment should be something that helps to add value to the UX process, and there are definitely elements of the recruitment process that can be collaborative.

We provide each client with detailed profiles of each participant who is recruited, some of our clients use these to create test plans that are tailored to the experience of each participant.  This can be especially useful when working with Government teams whose users can be potentially anybody, each user experience can be dramatically different. For example, someone who has been through a court case, on paper there are only 2 outcomes: win or lose.  However, in reality, the experience people go through is much more nuanced.

It is also important to note the value of an engaged participant who isn’t taking part solely for the financial incentive. It is a joy to get feedback from a client following a research session with a user who will benefit from the changes a digital team might make to their experience. Clients can help with participant engagement by sharing more outcomes, this sends a powerful message about the contribution people can make by taking part in a user research session.

We also work collaboratively to finalise the recruitment brief and create recruitment screeners and run workshops with clients to share our knowledge and promote user-centred research, not just user centred design.

Becky Taylor

Becky Taylor

UX designer, digital project manager and founder at Deckchair.


Written by Becky Taylor

We make sure our clients take part by actively planning in face to face workshops that are dotted throughout the project process.

These aren’t presentations where we come along for the ‘ta-da’ moment and show the work we have done. These are interactive sessions where we problem-solve with our clients. For example, we hold a Discovery session at the beginning of every project, where we work with our client to unearth all the intricacies of the problem we are solving. We run information architecture workshops with our clients, where, on screen and on paper, we build the sitemap together. We do user story workshops, where we give our clients paper templates and help them to download and process this information into something meaningful to us all.

Both Jess and Sharon have hit the nail on the head when they cite collaboration as absolutely key. For me, it’s the same with UX process. Historically, and still the case for many, the digital team are seen as the people who do the work. Often it’s a case of “right, you’ve got the brief, now off you go and come back with something that amazes me”. However, the way it works best is when the client becomes part of the digital team and openly and actively collaborates on the work at hand. This is where the shift from do-er to mentor is key for a UXer like me. The business knowledges lies with the client – it’s their baby and it’s their expertise – and it’s our skills that should facilitate the creation of solutions, not just go away and do them.

The client should become part of the digital team, not the boss cracking the whip, expecting us to come up with the goods.

Sharon’s right that wonderful things happen when people collaborate – you get so much more with the client in the room than you would with just the digital team putting their heads together. It’s really important to move away from digital jargon and processes that alienate clients, and by working so closely together, not only are we all forced to make this more human, but the client directly experiences methodology that heightens their respect for the process (and us).

As a result of them being more actively involved, they have far more ownership during the project and the end result. They are more engaged and responsible. The project is inclusive and they feel like a valued member of the team. (This makes the end result better too).

Openness and trust are key. Our clients have to trust that we know what we’re doing, as well as trust that we will look after them. Equally, they must be prepared to be open – we can’t help them, and the process won’t work if they can’t share with us and amongst each other. The best workshops we’ve had are where the participants range from the MD to those on the ground, and everyone’s opinion is worthy and listened to.

There are a few things that we think could improve our process with clients:

  • We need to make our workshops more playful and less digital (sounds like a contradiction but bear with me!). Some of the best results come when you’re away from the screen, because ultimately what we are working on is human. So we want to look at ways of using physical processes – drawing, games etc. to get the results we need.
  • We want to use more inspiring environments. Often we have to use a conference room at the client’s office, and this can be problematic because it’s uninspiring for everyone, lacks sunlight or air, and doesn’t take the client out of their work environment enough. This is a tricky one to solve as attendance seems easier when it’s held at their office, but perhaps we can persuade them with cake and a nice pub like Pub School!
  • We want to involve clients more in designing solutions. Currently, our client participation is great at the forefront of the project, where it’s very strategic, but we’d like to use co-design more, where the end solutions are designed by us and the client.
  • We want to engage the client more frequently. We work in both an agile and waterfall manner depending on the client/project. But either way, I want to implement more daily or weekly stand-ups – this is where we briefly get together with all members of the project and discuss what we did, what we’re going to do, and anything that’s getting in our way. I see this as an invaluable way of keeping the client engaged on all of the project elements, rather than just the more exciting workshops!

A penny for your thoughts...