They have to be involved early.

when a client can’t let go of an idea.

Managing clients expectations can be difficult especially when it comes to user sessions. Often, research is expected to solve all perceived issues.

But while user research is great for exposing, and potentially helping to solve, problems, the real value of research is in the opportunity to shows clients that one size does not fit all. This is crucial to express to clients as ideas are often entrenched and clients may not be receptive to other points of view about the product.

What works for one user may not work for another.

Recently, I conducted a round of testing to see what alerted users to learn about/use additional interactivity in the product. User reactions were almost uniform so our subsequent results seemed pretty straightforward and clear.

But after presenting the results, the client rejected them because s/he believed users would understand the product even though the participants didn’t.

“I don’t believe that will happen.”

Now, I fully feel that this is my fault. Our client wasn’t able to attend the sessions, due to scheduling conflicts, so s/he never saw the participants struggle with the product.

Typically, I insist that clients be in as many sessions as possible and will schedule according to client needs. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, that wasn’t possible.

What now? The most important lesson of seeing different types of users struggle with something wasn’t getting through. It’s not because s/he is a belligerent person, it’s because I wasn’t communicating as well as I needed to be.

So, we shifted the conversation from what happened and why to why the client felt that way, exploring why s/he was ignoring what happened for what s/he thought would happen.

After talking through it, I decided to conduct another session that the client could attend so that s/he could see in person the users’ struggles. But, unfortunately, even after watching another person have the same trouble, the client still believed that it was just those users — the product’s users would be different.

There’s a big lesson here — one that I’ve learned before and, apparently, needed to learn again — there is nothing more important than forcing your client to be part of the process. When they are detached from what you’re doing and how you arrived there, they, ultimately, won’t be as invested in the results, which is what we always want to avoid.