3 tips for resolving internal design disputes

Posted on May 15, 2019
4 min read


Imagine this. Your team is working on a new project, and several stakeholders can’t come to an agreement on design decisions resulting in design disputes.

Maybe the visual designer makes a choice to adhere to the best practices she learned at her previous company, but the product team is pushing for a change that could have a big impact on one KPI. Then the CEO walks into the room and offers a completely different opinion that takes the team back to square one. It happens at every company—and sometimes on every project.

Good-natured conflict is a sign of a healthy team, and it’s crucial for building high-quality products.

But when it goes on for too long, it can result in wasted time, energy, budget, and a failed product. Perhaps worst of all, it can result in one highly-opinionated team member taking complete control over the design and making decisions that aren’t in the best interest of the customer or the company.

So how can you resolve design disagreements in a productive and efficient way, while keeping the customer at the heart of the matter? Here are three ways to help you present your designs in a powerful and constructive way to make sure you’re designing the products your customers need.

1. Talk to your customers

When you first set out to design a feature, you need to go directly to your customers. They’ll help you prioritize the features that need to be built, validate your design idea and user flow before you pour time and money into it. By gathering continuous human insight you’re able to solve many of the common problems that teams face at each stage of development.

Before jumping into the details of the solution you’re offering, remind the team of the problem you’re all trying to solve together and why your customers need your solution. Then, walk through how your decision solves the problem in the best and most effective way possible.

In order to get buy-in from your team, you need to establish why your design is what your customers need. When you’re able to gather human insights from your customers and show them, not only will it present a more convincing argument, it’ll also force you to really examine your own idea and articulate its strengths.

When you start the conversation with why you made the choice you did and show them why your customers need it, you’ll offer your team insight into your process and create an open, collaborative environment.

2. Tie it back to business goals

Even the most delightful design can be pointless if it doesn’t serve the company’s needs. Rather than dwelling on the visual advantages of a design, focus on what the intended result will be.

Will more people sign up for a free trial because the button was more prominent? Will average sale size increase if you improve your search feature?

The more specific you get about your anticipated outcome, the more likely you’ll be to convince others. For example, “I predict a 20% increase in form fill outs if we eliminate one field, resulting in 150 more new users per month,” is much more persuasive than, “No one likes long forms, so we should keep it short.”

While everyone on the team should care about business goals, this is particularly important when working with executives and stakeholders.

3. Let your customers settle it

At the end of the day, the success or failure of a project depends on your customers. Do they like the product? Do they want it? Can they figure out how to use it? Will they actually use it?

Sometimes, the most convincing argument for (or against) a design will come straight from your target market. If you need to convince your team that the current design isn’t cutting it, run a few quick Product Insight tests and share the evidence of people struggling to figure out the product or feature.

Bring these video clips to your stakeholder meeting, and you no longer have to be the “bad guy.” Instead of criticizing the existing design or stepping on anyone’s toes, you can let the customers make your case for you.

Conversely, you can also leverage user tests to prove the effectiveness of good designs that your team may be doubting. By showing video evidence of your target market understanding and loving your design, you no longer have to pitch your own case, and more importantly, never have to guess what your customers are thinking.

Use internal disputes to make better products for your customers

Keep the conversation going with your customers throughout your development process. Challenge your team to spend more time discussing results—both for the bottom line and the overall customer experience—and less time arguing over who prefers what.

By incorporating human insight into your design review process, you’ll walk away from them with better decisions and reduce wasted time and guesswork—and keep everyone focused on matters most, your customers.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to learn how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through on-demand human insights, contact us here.

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