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Rachel Donné

Lead UX Designer

  • Writer's pictureRachel Donné

How to Prepare for Interviewing Stakeholders: Tips for Success




In my most recent position as Senior UX designer at Nautilus, I began to do less designing and more listening. There are many voices in product development: those of stakeholders who advocate for the company and those of the UX designer who support the user.

When talking with stakeholders about a new product feature or initiative, it’s essential to listen. You have to understand where their motivation is coming from as you gently remind them of your own. It comes down to reminding them that it’s not the business needs against the user’s needs; it’s both! We have a common goal: to make a great product.


Where to begin


I’ll usually start a stakeholder conversation with a small question about how they got involved with the project, their role, etc. These questions are a way to uncover the whole pitch and understand their perspective.

If I’m working with a new company, I’ll ask some broader questions about the business, find out their short and long-term goals, and how they would define a successful outcome. It’s also important to ask what would happen if this project fell short of success. What are some alternative goals and actions?

Next, I’ll listen to the motivation behind this project. What areas is the business struggling in, and how could this project help to solve some of these issues?

Lastly, I will ask THEM to describe their users to me. I want to hear the business perspective, who they think their target audience is, and why. I may also use some of my UX questions to help them get into the user’s head a bit more and help them understand the overlaps between business and user needs.


These are some of the questions I could ask:


Business

  • How has your organization or team reached its current position?

  • What are your immediate and long-term objectives for the business?

  • How do you define a successful outcome for this project?

  • What challenges is your organization currently facing?

  • Are there specific areas where you lack resources (such as sales, profits, customers) or face excesses (complaints, product returns, service calls)?

  • What specific goals do you expect this project to achieve for your business?

  • What are the consequences if this project is not completed?


Customers

  • Who constitutes your user base, and how would you characterize your customers?

  • What are their current perceptions and sentiments about your industry?

  • What steps do they typically take before making a purchasing decision?

  • What unexpected insights have you gathered from your interactions with these customers?

  • Which issues do customers currently encounter that your product addresses?


Product

  • What are some concerns you have about the product?

  • What features or aspects are lacking in the current process that this tool aims to provide?

  • What is the key message you want your audience to take away from this deliverable?

  • What specific action do you want users to be motivated to take after interacting with this deliverable?

  • If customers could instantly improve the process with a “magic wand,” what enhancements do you think they would wish for?


Wrap-up

  • What essential information do you believe others in your team might not have mentioned?

  • Is there a specific individual you recommend we interview to enhance our understanding further? If so, who?


The answers are in the conversation


The above questions are great icebreakers and opportunities for each party to understand each other better. However, the real solution begins afterward as you begin to brainstorm together and combine your points of view.

As the interviewer, the key is to stay excited and engaged. You want to keep people motivated to share as much as possible and do your best to find the heart of the issue behind the project. Stay open to ideas and try to wait to begin solutioning immediately until all factors are accounted for.


Interview Tips

If you’re working with a stakeholder remotely, recording these exploratory conversations is a good idea. You never know what insight you might capture that didn’t make it to your notes. If you’re lucky enough to be in a larger group, see if any other members would also be willing to type notes. That way, you can focus on the organic conversation and add UX input.


Like this post? I’m always interested to hear about new and exciting projects that I can help lead UX strategy and design. Reach out anytime with comments/questions.


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