Respond Like A Pro When You Hear This From Stakeholders

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

When you’re working on an in-house design team, you are likely working with many different projects — stakeholders and prioritization may change from one week to the next. Given the nature of this, things may not always run smoothly. Here are a few common phrases heard in organizations that are usually a symptom of a more significant problem.

Before you start reacting, take a moment to slow down and think about how it got to this point in the first place and work on ways to mitigate these situations later on.

“You’re a blocker.”

Surprise! You’re late on delivering something you actually had no idea about.

Symptom

There was likely a breakdown in communication regarding deliverables.

Prescription

Your engineering team is likely working an agile/sprint-based process.

  • Try to get into sprint planning meetings with engineers early and often.
  • Prioritize tasks based on where you’re at in the design process — if you don’t have the full solution in the picture.
TL;DR Long email threads

That email probably took longer to write than getting together for a 10–15 minute sync.

Symptom

Communication just isn’t happening between the team; no single source of information.

Prescription

Having keyboard warriors isn’t conducive to a productive or positive working environment.

  • Get all of your engineer and product partners in the room to discuss any misunderstandings or whiteboard solutions.
  • Have regular check-in’s with engineers or facilitate ad-hoc, face-to-face meetings.
“This design doesn’t make sense.”

In your head, it made sense but not quite so to everyone else.

Symptom

There isn’t an unobstructed flow of how users will navigate your app, or the designs are too high level.

Prescription

  • Present your flows in front of the discerning eye of your fellow teammates for a design critique.
  • Provide more detail spec-ing or use an interactive prototype to emphasize how interactions should function.
  • When working in Invision, make sure you are communicating states clearly, and connecting images. Sometimes designing a happy path isn’t enough — consider discussing edge cases proactively.
  • Roll up your sleeves and do some usability testing!
“We may have to cut features.”

But it’s not a killer feature anymore…

Symptom

A lot of times this is said to mitigate the risk of missing a particular deadline.

Prescription

  • Before going to the chopping block, consider what features are enhancements vs. must-haves. Prioritize must-have’s before enhancements or nice-to-haves.
  • Involve your engineering teams earlier in research so they can develop some empathy for the people that actually use your product.
“This doesn’t follow the X pattern.”

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Symptom

Frustration stems from an array of patterns and components with no clear documentation on how something should be executed.

Prescription

  • Consider investing the time to work on a design system or communicate why design decisions were made.
  • At a minimum, align with existing iOS and Android patterns if this becomes too much of an issue.

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