It's Our Research: Getting Stakeholder Buy-in for User Experience Research Projects

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It’s Our Research: Getting Stakeholder Buy-in for User Experience Research Projects discusses frameworks, strategies, and techniques for working with stakeholders of user experience (UX) research in a way that ensures their buy-in.

This book consists of six chapters arranged according to the different stages of research projects. Topics discussed include the different roles of business, engineering, and user-experience stakeholders; identification of research opportunities by developing empathy with stakeholders; and planning UX research with stakeholders. The book also offers ways of teaming up with stakeholders; strategies to improve the communication of research results to stakeholders; and the nine signs that indicate that research is making an impact on stakeholders, teams, and organizations.
This book is meant for UX people engaged in usability and UX research. Written from the perspective of an in-house UX researcher, it is also relevant for self-employed practitioners and consultants who work in agencies. It is especially directed at UX teams that face no-time-no-money-for-research situations.

  • Named a 2012 Notable Computer Book for Information Systems by Computing Reviews
  • Features a series of video interviews with UX practitioners and researchers
  • Provides dozens of case studies and visuals from international research practitioners
  • Provides a toolset that will help you justify your work to stakeholders, deal with office politics, and hone your client skills
  • Presents tried and tested techniques for working to reach positive, useful, and fruitful outcomes
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  • It's Our Research
    It's Our Research  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I find the book compelling because it’s international, based on experience, business oriented, and practical, and it has videos….The book is definitely international, with mini-essays by usability practitioners from all over the world (the videos are international as well). This produces a wide variety of contexts and highlights some interesting parallels."—Computing, December 5, 2012 "In this book, Tomer Sharon does a great and ground-breaking job of presenting useful wisdom on how to make usability research useful and usable, and how to sell it. The contents of this book can be summarized in seven words: Do as you preach and be humble. If that’s not sufficiently usable for you, read this book!"-Rolf Molich, DialogDesign "Tomer Sharon’s book is the cure for usability professionals whose work isn’t having the impact it deserves. Here you’ll find ways to work different, to make your research connect with stakeholders instead of trash cans. File under: work smarter, not harder." -Gerard Torenvliet, Senior Human Factors Scientist, Medtronic "A thoroughly readable look at how to make sure our user research actually makes it into the products we create. It explains how to get everyone engaged, how to plan research that asks the right questions, and how to help people use research findings. It's full of practical tips, great advice and real-life stories from practitioners."-Donna Spencer, Maadmob "It’s Our Research" should be required reading for anyone involved in a UX research study. Sharon will not only help you avoid the many pitfalls that most UX research projects come across, but more importantly give you all the tips and tricks for getting the most out your UX research."-William Albert, Bentley University; Author, Measuring the User Experience and Beyond the Usability Lab "There is probably no question that I am asked more often than "How can I have more influence?" User research that isn’t able to bring insight and drive improvement might as well not have happened. This book is the most complete guide to getting stakeholder buy-in that I have seen. It is a "must read" for researchers and their managers."-Arnie Lund, Microsoft; Author, User Experience Management "As an experienced Human Factors Engineer, I thought I knew how to do user research and engage stakeholders. But in these pages I discovered new ways to ensure my user research will be useful to my clients. The book is well organized and includes rich interviews and case study content. I especially appreciated the takeaways at the end of each chapter."— Stan Caplan, President, Usability Associates, LLC "The best researchers know how to inspire their stakeholders to act on their findings.At Google, Tomer brings a unique combination of depth and inventiveness in the way he communicates and works with the designers and managers who need to act on his findings. This learned, direct and humorous book explains how he achieves that."—Giles Colborne, cxpartners, Author, Simple and usable web, mobile and interaction design "If no one reads your report or implements your recommendations does it really matter how statistically valid your findings were? Do your yourself and your users a favor …read Tomer’s Book."—Jeff Sauro, Principal Measuring Usability LLC;Author, Quantifying the User Experience "This guide explains how to increase the chances that stakeholders (such as product managers, engineers, and management) will actually act on the user experience (UX) research they have commissioned. The guide is written from the perspective of in-house UX researchers (especially 'teams of one'), but it is also relevant for self-employed practitioners and consultants. It will also be useful for design researchers, product designers, user interface designers, information architects, and human factors specialists. The book primarily discusses UX research on digital services, but also covers digital products and systems of products and services in industrial and medical settings. Advice is given on dealing with difficult people, combining quantitative and qualitative data, and communicating research results. The book's appealing layout includes color photos, illustrations, diagrams, screenshots, and charts. Web sites and video interviews can be accessed using quick response (QR) codes supplied in the book."—Reference and Research Book News, Inc.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780123851307
  • Publisher: Elsevier Science
  • Publication date: 4/2/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,272,782
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Tomer Sharon is a User Experience researcher at Google Search. Previously, he led the user experience research effort for Google’s online advertising management platform - DFP (Doubleclick for Publishers). Prior to Google, he worked at Check Point Software Technologies in Israel as User Experience Researcher Lead.
As founder and first president of UPA Israel, he led the chapter to many achievements such as raising awareness of the need for easy-to-use, efficient, and fun technology products, and growing and nurturing a professional community of 1,000 practitioners.

Tomer is an experienced speaker at local and international conferences, a published author of articles and papers, and a past editorial board member for UPA’s UX Magazine. Tomer holds a BA in Social Sciences from The Open University and a master’s degree in Human Factors in Information Design from Bentley University in Waltham, MA.

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Read an Excerpt

It's Our Research

Getting Stakeholder Buy-in for User Experience Research Projects

Morgan Kaufmann

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-12-385131-4

Chapter One

If life gives you limes, make mojitos!



Yeah, but this study will delay our launch date.

Yeah, but we already know what the problems are.

Yeah, but aren't our designers suppose to know what people need? They are the experts.

Yeah, but we can't learn much from only five participants.

Yeah, but we just want to launch and see if it sticks. We'll fix it later.

Yeah, but we can't pay that much for this.

Yeah, but our product managers already do interviews and look at analytics.

Yeah, but A/B testing gives us all the answers we need.

Yeah, but how statistically significant is a study with five participants?

Yeah, but can't we run a quick study with internal users instead?

Yeah, but research sounds so academic.

Yeah, but Market Research already answered our questions.

(inspired by D'Hertefelt 2000)

To be able to sell UX research to people, one must first know them very well. Knowing people well means you know who they are and what makes them tick. Business, engineering, and UX practitioners all have different priorities and pressures. UX research is not always on top of their list. And that's okay. It doesn't have to be. To sell the value of UX research to people who have a lot on their plate requires one to focus on showing the benefits rather than talking about them. Exposing unaware people to usability testing by inviting them to observe users is a first small – yet key – step in building a relationship that is based on trust, mutual respect, and credibility.

Sometimes research is worth fighting for, and sometimes it isn't, and that's okay too. As a UX research practitioner, you learn in time how to make the decision between fight and flight. Most important, you learn to accept the fact that you can't win every battle and that in many cases, there is not even a need for war. If you perceive your relationship with the people you work with as a journey rather than a constant fight, you'll have a better, more satisfying experience.

This chapter introduces the different stakeholders of UX research and their perspectives on UX research. It will give you tools for dealing with difficult people who do not understand or respect UX research processes and help you better sell the value of what you do. It will also bring up the interesting case of the Lean Startup movement. This movement has captured the hearts and minds of many engineers, entrepreneurs, and garage geeks with UX research. The leaders of this movement (some of them interviewed for this book) successfully promote UX research while their audience listens.

Types of stakeholders

Business, engineering, and UX people are all stakeholders in product development. In the effort to develop products, UX researchers are more closely aligned with some parties. This section identifies the different types of stakeholders in UX research (Figure 1.1).

Business stakeholders

Upper management

When I talk about upper management, I am referring to your CEO, VP R&D, VP of Product Management, the entire executive management group, or any other person in a senior management position in your organization who is, might be, or should be affected by UX research. Thanks to the great design of the iPod, iPhone, and especially the iPad (which is owned by many people in upper management), most of them are by now convinced that design is something that is extremely important and will try to understand how they can implement design thinking and processes into their organizations.

An upper management stakeholder might take an important role in the success of a user experience research practice. This stakeholder can:

* Provide UX research direction and strategy to key individuals and departments

* Allocate budget to conduct UX research

* Be a champion for UX research by supporting and promoting it

Product managers

A product manager is responsible for many aspects of shipping a product, from identifying target audiences through gathering requirements to developing product roadmaps. A product manager is also someone who is dealing with day-to-day activities such as leading the product development timeline, implementation changes, and priorities. A product manager is usually working closely with many functions in the organization – sales, marketing, engineering (or development), support, and others. Another important aspect of product managers' work is that they usually meet and converse with many customers and users as part of their role in gathering and defining product requirement documents.

In other words – and although it may not seem to be the case in many organizations – a product manager is the center of the product development process. Product management roles are being performed under other job titles such as product owner, business product manager, marketing product manager, program manager, and project manager.

A product manager is a stakeholder who might take the following roles in the success of a user experience research practice:

* Crystallize the connection between business goals and UX research

* Help develop UX research goals

* Provide priorities for UX research based on the team focus and needs

* Characterize research participants

* Participate in drawing conclusions from UX studies

* Help in following through with engineering to make sure that UX research results are implemented

Marketing people

Marketing is the process for creating, communicating, and delivering offerings that have value for customers. Marketing people are deeply involved in identifying target customer segments, preferences, and requirements. It is a widely recognized practice and science that spans many concepts and disciplines.

A lot has been written about the relationship, overlap, and tension between marketing and UX research (Jarrett 2000), and cooperation (Swartz 2005). Both research disciplines have their strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. Market research has the goal of uncovering customer segments and customer opinions, and so is complementary to UX research, which mostly focuses on observed behavior of users. This complementary relationship means that there should be many opportunities to work closely with marketing people.


When a company has a sales department, salespeople are the ones who manage the relationship between the company and its clients. They try to understand and meet client needs and try to solve problems and tailor solutions so they can close deals. This work brings them into close contact with upper management, marketing, and product management. When working with and trying to understand salespeople, remember that the success of salespeople is directly related to the success of the organization. Also remember that a salesperson is the company's representative in the client organization and is one of the client's representatives in the company.

A salesperson is a stakeholder who might take the following roles in the success of a user experience research practice:

* Help identify user pain points and delights

* Help understand different user and client profiles and segments

* Support a recruiting effort for UX research studies

As a UX researcher, you have something salespeople might find invaluable: your studies might result in information that salespeople find helpful as a part of their pitch to prospective or existing clients. For example, eye-tracking heat maps tailored for salespeople could be used as a demonstration of how serious the company is when it comes to developing engaging experiences for its customers. Another example for research data that might be helpful for salespeople is data that shows satisfaction levels from your company's product compared to legacy or competitor products.

Engineering stakeholders

Software engineers

Also known as developers or programmers, engineers are the ones who make magic happen. Without them – their thinking, knowledge, creativity, and hard work – there will be no product. Throughout my career, I've learned a few important things about engineers:

* They want to do a great job in the most efficient way.

* Some of them have a great sense for design.

* Most of them have never observed a user trying to use their product.

* If you don't provide your input on a timely manner, they will not wait for you. I see this point as an extremely positive one because it motivates researchers to come up with research results fast.

As a UX research practitioner, engineers are probably your closest allies. Their logical way of thinking about how to solve problems may not always align with common design principles. If you partner with engineers, you will be able to identify solutions as a team that are better and more balanced than ones UX research or engineering alone can come up with.

QA professionals

Very generally speaking, quality assurance (QA) professionals make sure that software products meet certain quality standards through deep involvement in the development process and by carefully crafting and following rigorous acceptance tests.

QA professionals are potentially very close allies with UX research. When you think about evaluative research, such as usability testing, what QA professionals and study participants do has much in common. They both follow a script that describes a real-world scenario and help identify design flaws. Interviewing QA professionals from time to time will help you get a better picture of what works well and what does not work so well in a design of a product.

Technical support professionals

Professional services, technical support, customer care, and call centers are departments in which people are assigned with taking care of customers, their needs, and their challenges. People in those departments have day-to-day interaction with product users and are probably the ones with most customer-facing hours in the entire organization. To a UX researcher, that's an invaluable source of information. A simple thing such as asking tech support once a quarter what are the ten most popular reasons that customers contact them would tremendously help a UX researcher prioritize his or her work.

User experience stakeholders


Designers are the ones to make products right; they are located on the top of the list of people who need to understand users. Designers integrate business requirements from product managers, user requirements from research, and their knowledge about design into coherent experience creations. Designers have an extremely difficult, challenging job. They put different people's thoughts, opinions, and expectations into one melting pot and create a design that users are expected to be happy with. It's such a hard job that most designers ask for a lot of feedback to make sure they are doing it right. One of the most important pieces of feedback they get comes from product users through UX research. Designers (together with engineers) are your closest allies. They are your partners.


Others who do what you do internally and externally look up to you. They are interested in the quality of your research and in how you make an impact with research on your team and product.

Technical writers

Technical writers are involved in three writing activities:

* They create product documentation such as manuals and guides.


Excerpted from It's Our Research by TOMER SHARON Copyright © 2012 by Elsevier Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Morgan Kaufmann. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Usable Planet, by Gary Bunker


Chapter 1: If life gives you limes, make mojitos! Identifying stakeholders, selling user experience research, and dealing with difficult people and situations

Chapter 2: Mmm... Interesting, so what exactly is it that you want to learn? Implementing your great participant interviewing skills on stakeholders; asking good questions, listening, saying the right things, and identifying research opportunities

Chapter 3: If you pick a methodology first, something must be wrong: Strategies for planning studies with stakeholders and techniques for developing the right research questions

Chapter 4: What’s Gonna Work? Teamwork! Hands-on techniques for collaborating and involving stakeholders in research planning, execution, analysis, and reporting

Chapter 5: The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place

Chapter 6: You can’t manage what you don’t measure: Signs that indicate research is being used well and how you can systematically track success (or failure)


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  • Posted June 3, 2012


    Are you a UX person who practices usability and UX research; as well as, people with other job titles who try to do research as part of another job? Author Tomer Sharon, has done an outstanding job of writing a book that describes framework, strategies and techniques for working with stakeholders of user experience research in a way that ensures their buy-in. Sharon, begins by describing the different roles of business, engineering and user experience stakeholders. In addition, the author identifies research opportunities by developing empathy with stakeholders. He then discusses detailed planning of UX research with stakeholders. The author then, introduces ways for teaming up with stakeholders. He continues by discussing strategies and tactics for better communication of research results to stakeholders. Finally, he identifies a number of signs that research is making an impact on stakeholders, teams and organizations; and, describes ways to determine whether it is being used well. The author wrote this most excellent book to provide people who practice user experience research with strategies and techniques for getting their stakeholders’ buy-in for research. Perhaps more importantly, this great book was written from the perspective of an in-house UX researcher and is also highly relevant for self-employed practitioners and consultants who work in agencies.

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