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Why Negotiation Is Critical In Creating A Great Digital Experience

By , User Experience Designer , Hanson Dodge

July 19, 2017

Learn the value of collaboration and negotiation in creative projects, and find out why all functions must be consulted in the decision-making process.

The user and brand are served best through multidisciplinary negotiation.

Many web development agencies incorporate standard best practices of technology, SEO and usability. They are prepared to deliver a technically sound, usable experience.

But what about creative work and brand insights? Can they be layered in separately? You can try, but it’s not an effective way of incorporating these perspectives. When these functions happen separately, either through a siloed process or through the division of work among multiple vendors, the benefits of continuous collaboration disappear.

This is why it’s so important for all functions to be present in the decision-making process. Giving brand and creative teams the opportunity to weigh in and influence this work early and often changes everything. When a brilliant creative idea or insights into psychographic drivers influence the direction of UX and technology work, the result can be transformative. Now, your web experience is not only technically sound and usable, but it resonates with your user on a more emotional level.

The best agency work comes out of friendly combat -- may the best ideas win.

On occasion, the most compelling creative ideas might not adhere to usability best practices. On the flipside, the user-friendly ideas might not be very compelling. Conflicts between functions aren’t unheard of. What happens when our team members disagree? And is this a bad thing?

It’s productive and healthy to nurture friendly combat between functions. By considering a problem from multiple perspectives, we’re better able to fully comprehend all the pros and cons -- all the implications that might come out of our decision. When we have friendly disagreements, we don’t pit designers against developers, or strategists against UX designers. We pit ideas against one another and try to consider each from as many perspectives as possible. May the best idea win.

By considering multiple ideas from multiple perspectives and testing them by fire, we can ensure our final work is much stronger than if it had gone untested.

Good design is not a linear process.

Digital projects are often described in a linear format. First, there is research. Then, UX design. After that comes creative design. And so on. (This is often described as waterfall methodology.)

But that’s not how the best work happens. What a UX designer hands off to creative designers might be improved by a creative perspective earlier on in the process. Brand insights might change the shape of the entire project. And of course, technology must be consulted throughout the process. Not only can they ensure that what’s being proposed is technically possible, but they may also bring their own ideas to the table -- ideas that someone with a different expertise might not have considered.

Sharing responsibility for idea generation and direction is only the beginning of our collaborative process. As a concept moves from ideation, through design phases and into development, the core team must remain engaged to identify problems and opportunities for improvement. And should one of these problems or opportunities arise, the entire team must be prepared to go back to ideation to solve it. This is not a sign of failure -- this is a sign that the team is engaged and that the solution is being tested and refined. This is a predictor of project success.

Good design is not linear, and it’s not perfectly repeatable, either. Every project is different, and that means different needs, and yes, a slightly different process. An engaged, collaborative team can draw on the right tools at the right time to solve any challenge.

What does this mean?

Be wary of the promise of a perfectly linear or repeatable process. Don’t be afraid of friendly conflict! If you involve a variety of functions in major decisions, and seek opportunities for collaboration, these game-time decisions will produce strong outcomes and happy end users.

Ellie Jerow, User Experience Designer , Hanson Dodge

Ellie is a User Experience Designer and has been working in the Milwaukee web and software industry since 2010. With a background in SaaS and business consulting, Ellie now works as a user advocate, aligning business objectives and technical requirements to user needs. She has designed information spaces for clients in industries that include higher education, health care, insurance, technology and more.

She holds a Masters degree in Library and Information Science from UW-Milwaukee, with a focus on digital information organization. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, writing, and playing the banjo.

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