Editor's note: Kay Corry Aubrey is a UX researcher and trainer with Usability Resources Inc. She can be reached at kay@usabilityresources.net. This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the spring 2022 issue of QRCA VIEWS under the title “How to work with stakeholders in a UX research project.” Reprinted with permission. Copyright 2022 by QRCA.

If you are a qualitative researcher who wants to get into user experience (UX) research, you’re in luck! You can apply the same well-honed skills you use to understand a participant’s unique point of view to working with your user experience project stakeholders.

I’ve worked in user experience with product development teams for over 30 years, first as an employee and, for the past 20 years, as a consultant. I’d like to share some tips I’ve learned along the way that have helped me succeed. 

UX stakeholders are technical and focused on creating a product. In a typical UX project, the stakeholders you deal with include engineers, product managers, UX designers and quality assurance, as well as senior managers and C-level executives. This diversity presents significant challenges. Each one of your stakeholders has different skills, contexts and pressures. And these stakeholders may not even understand one another and their competing agendas and pressures. And oh, by the way, many of them will have a pretty hazy idea of what you do. 

Here are just a few of the different agendas I’ve encountered: 

• Engineers who push back when your research reveals they’ve been working under false assumptions about the end user – and this new information requires a change in design, involving a lot of unplanned work and changes to the release schedule. 

• The chief technology officer whose baby you are usability-testing might have the urge to jump up and show the participant “the right way” to perform the task. (Make sure the door to the...