The importance of stakeholders. And why they matter in UX by Jenny Lardh

Triad UX consultant Jenny Lardh explains why stakeholders are important to UX projects and how to get the best out of them.

Ever worked on a project where the stakeholder’s input wasn’t crucial? Me neither. Stakeholders come in various guises. They may be clients, portfolio leads, or line managers. But they all have a stake in the final output. Here are my top tips for getting the best out of your stakeholders.

  1. Build rapport

In most cases, you will have more than one stakeholder. And they will most likely have different opinions, different requirements, and different priorities.

Build a rapport with each of them. Make the most of it. Gather all the information you can from your stakeholders and analyse the data along with the data gathered from your user population. Use this as a foundation for the requirements and priorities. Then facilitate open discussions with your stakeholders to agree on suitable steps forward in the product, service, or process.

  1. Be efficient

Time management is key, so have a plan for every interaction, whether online or face-to-face. Stakeholders are busy people, but that shouldn’t put you off from asking for their time. It simply puts the onus on you to make good use of it.

  1. Be transparent

I like to take my stakeholders along with me throughout the journey. Being transparent enables them to see what’s happening. It empowers them to object if there is something they disagree with. And it facilitates open discussions. This is important when balancing user needs with stakeholder requirements. It also gives me the possibility to share external research, such as results of usability testing or contextual interviews.

  1. Recognise that your stakeholders are not your users

Differentiating between stakeholders and users can be difficult. A question I like to ask is, “Are they going to use this product regularly?” If not, I will always ask to do my research and requirement with people who will be. It could be that my stakeholder will represent one specific user type of the product I’m working on but there is still a gap for another user type. If this is the case, I will check if we can recruit representatives of the missing user types.

Stakeholders might have a vision of their product, but it pays to be mindful that, in the end, we are designing this for the people who will be using the product. I can demonstrate test results and iterations to my stakeholders and explain why particular elements and designs work better than others. This way, I am getting buy-in on requirements not directly related to my stakeholders.

  1. Take your stakeholders through your prioritisation journey

We always work towards a timeline and deadline. And there is only so much we can physically do in the time that we have. When it comes to priorities, it is important that your stakeholders understand and agree with your thought process. Having open discussions about the requirements and what is feasible allows us to conclude together. It is also an opportunity to share requirements that you may have found through your research with the user population, as stakeholders may only sometimes be aware of what the biggest painpoints are for their users.

  1. Create checkpoints throughout the project journey

There is nothing worse than spending time on a project only to demonstrate the output to stakeholders and discover that they disagree with what has been done. I have learned that I can avoid surprises by taking my stakeholders with me on each journey step. I build regular checkpoints with my stakeholders to confirm that we are moving in the directions needed for our stakeholders and our user population. Have regular meetings with your stakeholders, test your design with your user population and build the whole product or service in iterations to avoid surprising your stakeholder at the end

We hope that you have found this blog useful. If you are interested in UX or have a question for the Triad UX team, please get in touch.