How to Help Marketers Care (a lot) About UX

Allen Hsu
August 17, 2021

UXers sometimes shy away from working in marketing, and, on the flip side, marketers don’t always understand the value of UX. As a UX designer who has been with Modo Modo Agency for nine years and has helped countless clients optimize their digital interactions, I have learned a few things that could help close the gap between UX and Marketing.

Below are some challenges you may face when trying to implement a complete UX design process in a marketing environment:

  • The company doesn’t understand the value of UX
  • Clients or stakeholders don’t understand the value of UX
  • Marketing is seen as something unrelated to UX
  • Balancing limited time and resources in a fast-paced environment
  • and more

These challenges, compounded by the fact that there is often a lean UX team (if there even is one), make it harder to advocate for UX best practices. Here are some approaches you can try to improve your environment and processes.

What a UX designer can do to advocate for UX in marketing:

  1. Educate the people around you and find your allies.

UX design education

Never assume everyone in a marketing environment has the same UX knowledge you do. More often than not, people don’t appreciate UX simply because they don’t know what it is. Share your knowledge and become a UX advocate. Hold lunch & learns or webinars, open up in relevant meetings, or even have small talks in elevators. Opportunities are everywhere. Does the client want ten items in a dropdown menu? Introduce them to Hick’s Law. Don’t know where to start for an app redesign? Introduce them to the Pareto Principle.

  1. Prove the value of UX design with data

UX is data

When marketers market, it’s all about numbers and data. Guess what? UX is all about data, too! That includes the qualitative research that informs the UX process all the way through to the number of demo requests, downloads, click-throughs, and myriad other conversions that are top of mind for marketers. While UX and marketing are two distinct professions, they have similar goals. If you share data with marketers, then you both will be speaking the same language. Not sure where to find the right data? Read on.

  1. Ask for opportunities to implement performance tracking

UX performance tracking

We don’t exist in a world where someone “orders a website” in the same fashion they can order a #3 combo. New website projects should use a data-driven approach to inform structure, content, design and functionality. We have many tools that provide insights into performance, not only in development but especially after a digital property goes live. Even if your client (internal or external) doesn’t seem to care about this, encourage tracking with Google Analytics or other tools to inform design decisions. It seems obvious, but it is often overlooked, and you, the UX hero, can champion this type of accountability and information. If you have access to past trend data, it will equip you with more insight into what is working, what isn’t, and what decisions to make for future performance.

  1. Secondary research for quantitative data

UX secondary research

The two most important considerations when undertaking a new project are: 1) the brand, and 2) the users. The brand part is usually (relatively) straightforward, but user research can often be daunting. Ideally you would have access to inputs like the ones used to build these MailChimp personas. But the reality is, you may not have robust historical user data, analytics, survey data, etc. If you lack this type of in-house quantitative data, secondary research (sometimes referred to as “desk research” or, well, “Google”) can be helpful—if you know where to look. Push clients or stakeholders to provide as much data as possible and do your own research to fill in the blanks. Maybe there are studies out there that reflect the attitudes or behaviors of general users. While it may not reflect your users specifically, it’s a better starting point than no data at all.

  1. Guerrilla research for qualitative data

Guerrilla UX research

Doing qualitative research such as interviews or focus groups can be tricky because it requires more budget and more people to be on board. With more barriers to execution, many UXers simply skip the process. However, any sample size is helpful when it comes to qualitative research, even if you can only pin down one or two of your coworkers or stakeholders and obtain 10 minutes of their time. Additionally, you can create an online survey (using Typeform or other services) and send it to select coworkers and customers to obtain more data.

  1. No time to test? Read…a lot.

UX books

Testing, including A/B testing, benchmark testing, accessibility evaluation, and more, requires more commitment and can be challenging to implement. UXers may need to make decisions without testing to support their thinking. That’s where reading comes into play. Continuous education allows you to make “informed guesses” because it equips you with knowledge on various user scenarios. Smashing Magazine and Inside Design by Invision offer great UX content and webinars. WebDesignerNews collects trending resources daily. Several publications on Medium, such as UX Collective and Prototype, do the same. Good UI is a site that gives you access to A/B testing results from various companies like Netflix and Airbnb. Nielsen Norman Group regularly publishes excellent UX research. What you learn today could be the missing link to tackling your UX challenges tomorrow.

  1. Appreciate the importance of low fidelity wireframes

UX lo-fi wireframes

If your UX resources are limited, it is even more important for designers to be on the right track, so you don’t lose valuable hours. Create a low-fi wireframe to help you see things that a visual designer doesn’t. This step also enables you to make sure that the wireframe components align with other team members’ visions before investing resources and time on the more complex high-fi mockups.

  1. Gain trust first, then skip approval

UX approval in marketing

Not everyone can appreciate this, but if you gain enough team trust, you may have the flexibility and autonomy to do UX research and testing without first gaining approval. It may not be easy the first time—particularly if you find out you don’t have the autonomy you thought you did—but once you can show team members and clients the value of UX, things get not only easier but better.

It’s go time

Even though UX didn’t get the attention it deserved until recent years, it has been around a long time. Now, more and more marketers understand that an excellent user experience is a significant part of conveying a message or achieving engagement and performance. Now that the value of UX is becoming more evident, we have an opportunity as UX professionals to advocate for users—and be all the more credible with the data to back us up.