Mastering the Design Process

Presenting to Stakeholders

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

Mastering the Design Process

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The "Presenting to Stakeholders" Lesson is part of the full, Mastering the Design Process course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul demonstrates steps to prepare for presenting a design, including involving the stakeholders, identifying possible objections, and creating a short video. Common complaints, potential responses, and reasons to speak to stakeholders individually are also provided in this segment.


Transcript from the "Presenting to Stakeholders" Lesson

>> So the moment comes where we have to present all of this back to the client. Now we've been involving them as we go, so that kinda helps to some degree. But we need to get sooner or later to a point where we do a probably a more formal presentation of some description and get some more formal feedback.

So first of all, take the time to prepare before presenting, right? You want everything to be all lined up before you get to any kind of formal presentation process when it comes to design. And the more thoroughly you're prepared, the better the whole thing is gonna go. So for a start, it's gonna give you more confidence when it comes to presenting.

And if you're more confident, that tends to give the client and stakeholders a lot more confidence as well. Preparation will also prevent you from being surprised by any questions or objections from stakeholders. So thinking through what they might come back with is a key part of preparing. And having a plan, right, means that you're gonna remain in control of the process because very quickly when it comes to presenting design, you can really lose control there.

And it kind of, everybody else starts designing the website and you become a pixel pusher that just moves a few things around and that's a horrible place to be. So we're gonna want to avoid that as well. So one way of preparing as we've already said, is to involve the stakeholder at multiple times.

With the style tiles, with working out the content and the objections and the brand keywords, and the wireframing. All of those are opportunities to engage with the stakeholder and get them involved and by doing that, they will understand more. Because the stakeholder is more involved in the design process, they'll understand the decisions that have been made along the line.

And that puts them in a much better place to make educated and informed decisions. Secondly, right, it will give them a sense of ownership over the design, right? They will feel like they were a part of creating it and if they were a part of creating it, they're gonna be less likely to reject it.

And finally, if they were involved in creating it, they're also gonna be more likely to defend that design and that approach to other stakeholders, right? So involving people is really powerful. Just to briefly remind you how we're doing that, we're gonna get them involved in defining the content.

We're gonna get them involved in prioritizing the content with user retention point exercise. Creating brand keywords and in the style guides, right? Those are our key opportunities but there are whole other opportunities as well. For example, I do exercises like the book jacket exercise where I get them to imagine that they are representing their company on a book.

And they have to make decisions about what goes on the front cover, what goes on the spine, what goes on the back cover and the inside flap. And all of that helps them to prioritize their messaging and things like their value proposition and that kind of stuff. Another exercise I sometimes do is called the six-up exercise.

One of the big problems when it comes to websites is that people have a particular mental image in their heads of what the website will do and how it will work. And one of the things that you need to do is show them well actually, that's not the only way it could have been done.

So what we do is we take a single sheet of paper, we fold it in thirds one way, and half the others so you end up with six boxes basically on your sheet of paper. And you ask them to sketch out in the first box how they imagined a particular page or function will work on the website.

Once they've done that, you then say okay, now fill in the other five, right? And that forces them to think in different ways that you might be able to solve the same problem. That can be a really useful group exercise as well. So there's an article there of a few different exercises you can do to engage your stakeholders.

So that's fundamentally how you wanna prepare, is by getting them involved, that's a big part of it. But then, you also need to think about possible objections. Now I talked about objections earlier in the context of user objections, why users might not act on a website, might not download your app, might not do your call to action, whatever it be.

But now, I'm talking about objections about why people might reject your design, right? So why stakeholders might go no, this design isn't right. So the chances are that you will be able to make some educated guesses about problems or changes that your stakeholder might raise during a presentation, right?

I highly encourage you, just to spend a couple of minutes writing down a list of these things that they might say and how you might answer them, so that you're not surprised during the meeting, right? Because if you have to think on your feet in the meeting, it can be really quite hard to do and having those lined up makes an enormous difference.

So let's look at some common ones that come up and how I would respond to them, just to give you a taste of what I've got in mind. One that comes up all the time is can we move it above the fold, all right? Really common thing that comes up so I have this little patter that whenever that comes up, just flips, it clicks in and I just say the same thing.

Which is basically, it's actually an understandable misconception that users don't scroll and so you need prominent content above the fold. And actually, that misconception is based on some research done in 1994 by Jacob Nielsen that said, users don't scroll. So that has stuck and everybody now believes everything has to be above the fold, if you want it seen.

However, as early as 1998, Jacob Nielsen actually updated his study to say well, that's no longer a problem and users do scroll. And as you can see from the heatmap that we did, the eye tracking heatmap that uses a spotting content. That's how I would deal with that particular objection.

Another one is well, it doesn't wow me, right? Well, it just doesn't wow me, another one, right? Sometimes, my response to that is well, it doesn't particularly wow me either, but we're not the target audience. Design tested well with our audience, and I would advise against designing for us, rather than the people we're trying to attract.

So that's how I deal with that one and again, I'll refer back to the semantic differential survey where we said yeah, it ticks off all our keywords so we know it appeals to our audience. I vividly remember working on our website back in the Myspace days, do you remember that?

Yeah, probably not, you're all too young. And I was working on a university website and I did a design, ended up looking a bit, had that Myspace vibe to it and I utterly despised it, it was horrible. Picked worst piece of design I've ever done and the client hated it as well, but it tested through the roof with the audience we were trying to attract.

So what do you do, right? [LAUGH] Do you want a website that we personally like and makes us feel better? Or do you want a website that actually resonates with the users you trying to reach? We decided on the latter, you know? So that tends to be how I took around that.

And then there is people won't see..., whatever it is, people will miss this. And that's where you go back, it scored very highly when we run it through the eye tracking algorithm, right? However, you might be right in the real world, it might not, people might miss it, so let's do some more testing.

At which point they go we don't have time for that, I'm sure the algorithm is fine and then everybody moves on. So it's about thinking through in advance how you're gonna deal with this kind of stuff, it makes an enormous difference. There's also another little factor at play here and I can't remember, though I touched on this later, I might be repeating myself but I will say it now.

There's a psychological thing here, all right? Because if you go into a meeting, right? Let's say you're the CEO of the company, and you turn around to me and you say, we need that element above the fold, nobody will see it. And even if I come back to you with this great argument that's all well structured and rest of it, it's become about authority at this point, right?

I've basically made you look small, all right? And I've proved to the rest of the room that you're wrong, okay? But there's no way, you're the CEO of the company, there's no way you're gonna roll over and let me bulldoze you like that so you're gonna fight back.

However, if I sat down before that meeting, and identified, bet the CEO is gonna say that thing needs to be above the fold. Then what I can do when I walk into the presentation is I can lead with that, I can say well, some people are, I did play with the idea of moving this element above the fold.

But actually I found [SOUND] gave my reasons, you haven't opened your mouth as a CEO yet. So if you're convinced by my reasoning, you can just keep your mouth shut and you don't lose any face. Do you see what I mean? So you can basically preempt, it's all very manipulative, isn't it?

But you can preempt people's objections so that they don't feel belittled in that situation because the moment it becomes, I really wanna say, a test of how far one may urinate. If it comes down to that, then you are always gonna lose because as a designer, you're gonna be quite low in the pecking order so yeah, just bear that in mind.

Anyway, so, common objections. The other thing that I do, is I try and speak to all the stakeholders before I do the presentation and I try to speak to them individually. This isn't always possible but it really is worth doing if you possibly can. So let's say you've got a presentation where you know you're gonna be presenting the design to a group of people, I try and talk to each of those people individually beforehand.

And the reason is, is that when I speak to stakeholders individually, allows me to tailor my message to the things that I know will resonate with them, right? So let's give you some examples. So if I'm speaking to a marketing person and I'm talking about the design that I've produced, I can talk about how it will improve engagement and lead generation because that's the things marketing people care about.

If I'm talking to a salesperson, I can focus on lead quality and quantity so how many leads and how good those leads are. If I'm talking to finance people, I'll talk about how the improved usability on the website will reduce the number of customer queries and that cost savings can come out of that, right?

So it saves us money. And then if I'm talking to IT, I will emphasize how easy the site is gonna be to build and to maintain. And actually, these are tips that work not just for design, but tips that work with any, whenever you've got sell something to somebody else, right?

You appeal to their selfish gene, right? We're all selfish when it comes down to it. People don't care about the users, right? So, a lot of designers go well, the users need this, well, no one think of the users. And they're all trying to persuade everyone else to care about user needs but the truth is, nobody else does, right?

Not really, it's not their job to. If you're a developer, it's not your job to care about the users primarily. You've got other things to worry about. If you're a marketing person, we've all got our own targets, our own problems. But if you can demonstrate how the design actually helps that bigger, helps them reach their selfish aims, it helps them meet their end of year bonus or their next promotion, or whatever else.

Suddenly, they'll sign off on the design, so that's why I like to speak to people individually. Another little thing that I prepare, you can either do this before or after the presentation and this again, is a beaut, right? This is a really good trick, he says modestly. It's I create a short video presentation of the design, right?

Why I've done it the way I've done it, how I approached it, all the things that led up to it. The brand key was the wireframes, the style tiles, all the rest of it, all put in a video. The reason that I do this is because what happens is I go and give my presentation, say to you two, right?

So I've given my presentation to you two and then what happens is you are not quite sure about the design or whether, or it's a big decision and bit out your pay grade. And I've given you this amazing presentation with all this information, that means that you can make an informed decision.

And then you, because you feel slightly uncomfortable making a decision, you walk out the room and you go and see the CEO, right? And you show them the design, and what do you say to them? What do you think? Now as we've already established, that's a really bad question to ask, right?

So we don't want them to be able to just walk out with the design and show it toward somebody else with no context. So I record a video and that's what I give the stakeholders. So they have to see the design within the context of how it's explained.

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