I recently started taking a class in user experience design at General Assembly as part of my quest to understand  different types of technological disciplines and the mental frameworks people use in these disciplines. At the end of the first class, I started thinking… UX designers might make the best negotiators in the tech world. And possibly outside of it as well.

User Experience Design, unlike programming, is a field I hadn’t heard much about prior to entering the tech world. So when the chance came along to take a 12 week course that covers everything from user research and discovery to storytelling to wireframe basics, I jumped at it.

During the first session of the course I was struck by how similar many tenants of user experience design are to the principles of negotiation as laid out by Stuart Diamond. I had recently started reading his book, Getting More, after growing responsibilities at work made it more and more clear that I needed to work on negotiation. The book throws out traditional negotiation tactics such as “win win” and “meeting each other halfway” in favor of focusing on goals, understanding your audience by intently listening to them, and thinking about how to win them over in whatever way achieves your goal – this can mean trading items of unequal value, making the other party feel better, or taking a short term loss for longer term gain.

User Experience Design is all about designing by listening and thinking about your end user – the audience. Sometimes you have to abandon your original plans to focus on the user’s actual goals since your ultimate goal is to build the best product possible. Day 1 of my UX class, a list of things we would learn over the 12 weeks was displayed:

Screen Shot 2013-08-18 at 1.15.23 PM

“Listen, listen, listen because people are going to make decisions based on how you make them feel”, is basically the tagline of Getting More. Listening also at the top of the list of things you learn as a UX Designer.

The twelve strategies of Getting More also have essentially the same elements in mind as the steps of the UX design process. Here they are on top of an illustration of the design process:

photo (5)

See the similarities? Examine / It’s about Them, Understand / Each Situation is Different, Ideate / Be Incremental, Experiment / Use Their Standards, Distill / Make a List. Another example: during the first class we were shown a quote from Don Norman, the “papa bear” of UX:

“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company’s offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.” – Don Norman

Aka, your end goal is to make sure the user’s end goals are met. This mirrored a quote from Getting More:

“Think of yourself as the least important person in the negotiation. You must do role reversal, putting yourself in their shoes and trying to put them in yours.” – Stuart Diamond

Also know as…you meet your goals by seeing what they’re seeing and meeting their goals.

In Diamond’s book there is a story about  a woman who wants to make a video for her children about her parents so her children will know who they are when their grandparents have passed on. She’s concerned that her mother will not take this well and debates how to bring up this sensitive topic and still accomplish her goals.

If a UX designer were to approach this same problem it might go something like this:

Discovery & Research

  1. Who are the people involved? Mother / Daughter / Children
  2. What are their desires / motivations? Gather Info / Observe / Track Activity about what the grandmother mother does and cares about
  3. How do they respond to events? What are their frustrations?  What processes do they use? Make User Personas / Interview Them / Write out Scripts to uncover things she might not know about what makes the grandmother mother tick and things she cares about to get a full picture of  grand mother’s potential concerns
  4. What tasks and decision points will they respond to? Draw up user scenarios where if daughter does X, the grand mother does Y and the grandmother generally responds to situations by doing X


  1. What are all the options? Don’t do it, do it without her, fit the grandmother into something the mother makes, get the grandmother to value what she is making and do it herself


  1. Test out on friends / family / other mothers and grandmothers who might be in similar situations


  1. Bring together all insights and come up with the plan of action

In Getting More the daughter ended up role playing with her negotiation class (ideating) and using some of the 12 strategies to come up with the solution for how to approach her mother. She flew o California to have the conversation in person and framed the conversation to see that her mother actually cared about leaving a legacy and memory for her grandchildren.

Alas, thinking of user experience designers as great negotiators may not always be practical. Realistic or not, my favorite insight from this exercise was that to achieve your goals, focus on becoming the least important person in any situation. You’ll ultimately design the set of experiences you’ve been searching for.

Interested to hear your thoughts!

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