Radio Johnny: Jill Christ and Elizabeth Thapliyal on Stakeholder Reviews

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Today on Radio Johnny, Jeff Parks talks with Jill Christ and Elizabeth Thapliyal from Citrix Online. They share their experiences in re-designing GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, and GoToTraining and how they changed the traditional stakeholder review process to a user-centered review process, allowing users to become the ultimate stakeholder.


We had all the stakeholders involved in watching the usability test sessions (they came to multiple test sessions). When it came time to make the decisions, it happened so much faster. But when people weren’t involved, that’s when details had to be agonized over and there had to be a lot more discussion and debating.

Our stakeholders understood that we really wanted to learn and fail early; being able to change and modify our approach. [As a result] they were more willing to take risks and fail as well, allowing for more collaboration and discussion.

We made the test sessions their (stakeholders) opportunity to review the designs. There really wasn’t time to have a separate meeting to review the design work and then go into the test sessions, so we combined everything into one meeting; inviting them to watch the users and review the designs. They understood this wasn’t the perfect design right away…so if they had something to say about the changes they could; while being informed of the users’ expectations.


When committees drive design, the sign-off process can be very time consuming. Often this results in a frustrating environment filled with unhappy design compromises that fail to meet users’ needs. However, User Experience and Web design teams can revolutionize the traditional stakeholder review process by grounding projects in user-feedback.

Jill and Elizabeth share several ideas about how businesses can overcome the issue of guessing and arguing over design choices and how these solutions can lead to a better design experience not only for the users but also for all stakeholders involved.

Show Notes

* UIE Workshop: “Product Usability Survival Techniques” – Elizabeth attended a workshop hosted by UIE and they gave us the original idea to do fast iterative testing – description of the UIE 2007 session

* UIE Article: The Freedom of Fast Iterations: How Netflix Designs a Winning Web Site

* Usability Methodology R.I.T.E.

* Research is only effective if people know how to use your data, why it is important, and why its relevant. They need to see it to believe it. The effectiveness of your report is inversely proportional to the thickness of its binding. Making Research Effective by Todd Wilkens.

* Jess McMullen – Jess works with getting stakeholder buy-in by working up front with stakeholders, collaborating, and designing with them. This is a great resource on involving stakeholders: Designing Influence in Organizations

* Jakob Nielsen – written articles about how reports slow you down (even slide decks), and involving observers are the best way to ensure issues are addressed, it means there might be some issues will be interpreted with bias, but much better than being totally ignored:

Involving Stakeholders in User Testing
Formal Usability Reports vs. Quick Findings

* Rapid iterative testing is the quickest way to inform which design directions to take. Getting your results to the teams quickly is important, and debriefing with them is the most effective way to do this: Rapid-Turnaround Usability Testing: Not Just a Pipe Dream by Kyle Soucy & Holly Philips

* Paul Boag writes about similar challenges, and addresses this issue in his article, Combating Design by Committee


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Jeff Parks

Jeff is the co-founder of DIGIA UX Inc. and actively collaborates with industry professionals from around the world through his involvement with Boxes and Arrows and Johnny Holland. Jeff is also leading workshops on Information Architecture and User Experience Design over at Follow the UX Leader, in addition to volunteering his time as a Mentor and Member of the Board of Directors for the Information Architecture Institute.

One comment on this article

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