The Good Tension: Balancing the Pull Between User, Business, and Development Advocates

Session Title

The Good Tension: Balancing the Pull Between User, Business, and Development Advocates


Carolyn Chandler, Manifest Digital

Session Type: Presentation

UX professionals are often left out of key conversations in the project, especially during initial strategy sessions, early requirements gathering, and the change control process. In part this is because of the perception — sometimes justified – that we always put user needs ahead of business needs and development concerns.

Picture this as a three-way tug-of-war. If we pull too hard in the direction of the user, we risk appearing as rigid and unrealistic; but if we give in to conflicting business or development pulls too easily, the solution fails to meet key user needs. If we learn to balance these three different pulls to create a good, productive tension, we can have a greater impact on our projects and our companies.

This workshop will discuss the concerns of the three types of advocates — user advocates, business advocates, and development advocates. We’ll talk about tactics for maintaining a good tension between each so that the final solution is successful. In this session you will:

* Learn about the three roles and discuss how they’re often represented on projects
* Understand key motivations for each role, which will help in future working relationships
* Discuss and practice tactics that will help with understanding when to pull harder and when to let up
* Understand how UX professionals can bring valuable insights to team members and open up communication jams, using skills in facilitation and interaction design


Carolyn Chandler is the co-author of “A Project Guide to UX Design” and the Experience Design Director for Manifest Digital, a next-generation interactive agency based in Chicago. She’s been designing interactions for software and web for 12 years and leading UX teams for 10. Carolyn is a local leader in the Interaction Design Association ( and teaches at DePaul University, with a focus on helping UX designers build the skills that will help them become business leaders.