How to better sell UX

Astronaut with for sale sign

When I first started out in the wonderful world of user experience I rather naively thought that everyone else had ‘seen the light’ and realised like me the importance (and commercial benefit) of delivering a good user experience. Boy was I wrong! Over the years I’ve seemed to have spent nearly as much time on some projects trying to persuade managers, colleagues and senior stakeholders that we really should be doing some of this funny ‘user experience’ stuff, as actually doing it. Unfortunately for a lot of organisations UX design is still seen as an unnecessary luxury, not a necessity (arguably both from a commercial and accessibility perspective). Now I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of why user-centred design and delivering a good user experience is a very sensible thing to do (a future post me’s thinks) and of course hard core UX design is not necessary for all projects. However an important part of any UX professional’s job is being able to sell UX, so I thought it would be useful to share what I’ve found to be effective at getting those user experience refuseniks to ‘see the light’.

Case studies – the proof is in the pudding

If you take one thing away from this post then it should be the power of the case study. It’s all well and good outlining to managers what the ROI for UX design might be, or how much money could be saved by improving the usability of a system – these are all what ifs and maybes. A good case study says, ‘hey this worked before and it can also work here’. Of course you’re not going to persuade your boss to redesign your Intranet by showing how many Apple iPhones have been sold on the strength of the user experience. A case study needs to be applicable to the situation and ideally should be related to your organisation, or at least your sector. Other people’s case studies can be equally powerful. Consultancies, agencies and sites such as EConsultancy are all good resources for finding appropriate case studies – if you can create your own even better.

Share the UX love

An invaluable way to sell UX is simply by sharing your experience, enthusiasm, expertise and (dare I say) love of UX with your colleagues, team mates and stakeholders. Good UX design is not something that is the sole property of UX professionals – It should be open to all (hence the title of this blog). For example, by working with a developer on their screens you can not only help them with their job, but also open their eyes to the benefits of UX design. If you think about selling UX from the bottom up, together with top down you’re much more likely to be successful.

Remember that UX design is just a means to an end

Now of course sharing the UX love is an undoubted good thing, but also remember that UX design is simply a means to an end. That end might be a commercial advantage, cost savings or even promotion within an organisation. People are not going to buy in to user experience because it’s the right thing to do, they will buy in because of what it can deliver. Use this to sell UX. Show the potential ROI for UX design. Show how much a similar project benefited from UX design. Show how good the team would look if your system became the darling of the organisation! Look at the bigger picture and as any good sales man (or woman) will tell you, sell the benefits of UX design, not the features!

Concentrate on the best UX sales

Do you think that salesmen go after every sale? Perhaps if they’re desperate but a good salesman will chose those sales to concentrate on, and those to let go. You should do the same thing when it comes to selling UX. That project that is going downhill faster than a lead balloon might benefit from some UX design but if the project is doomed to failure then you don’t want user experience being tarnished with the same brush. Equally if there is a possible quick win, or project destined for greatness then try to get user experience in the mix. You can then let everyone know how user experience contributed to the success. Concentrate your efforts on the winners, on those projects that are going to make the best future case studies and ditch the losers, not matter how painful that might feel.

Accept that you can’t win every battle

Isn’t it infuriating when you can see that an application or website could hugely benefit from some UX design but the powers that be don’t deem it to be necessary? Well as they say – ‘you win some, you lose some’, and that also applies to the world of user experience. If you spend all of your time fighting for lost causes you can miss the opportunity to identify those battles that are worth fighting, where you can really sell UX. No matter how painful it might be, accept that you can’t win every battle (just ensure that you try to win the user experience war – User experience architects: ATTACK!)

Want to further sharpen those UX selling skills?

If you want to learn more about selling usability and UX then I can recommend John Rohde’s excellent book: Selling Usability -User Experience Infiltration Tactics. For a mere $14.95 (about £10) you can download a PDF version of the book, or alternatively order the paper back from