Summary: What is User Advocacy? In short, fighting for the rights of your user. It means taking your user’s point of view, bringing their voice to a discussion, and using user research data to educate team design decisions.
User Advocacy is a core UX ‘soft skill’, recognized as essential to UX but rarely taught. Usability pioneer Jakob Nielsen has in his bio “User Advocate” but has never explained what it is or how to use it. As a result, UX professionals learn User Advocacy organically, through experience, and over time. However, teams that need to “move quickly and fix things” find themselves cutting corners, implementing “Lean UX” and leaving users out.
User advocacy, gained by exposure to users, is critical, especially for amplifying Inclusive Design efforts.
Incorporating User Advocacy means bringing user representation into design conversations and decision-making processes. This helps bridge the gap between designers and users, ensuring that design choices resonate with users’ actual needs. By including users from the outset, the design process becomes less risky and user-centric or Outside-In Design. This means developing a strong practice of User Research.
Going beyond empathy with advocacy
Is advocacy the same as empathy?
Empathy is foundational to UX, whether you believe in it or not. It allows designers to understand and connect with users’ experiences. However, User Advocacy takes empathy a step further. It’s not just about understanding users; it’s about becoming their advocate, standing up for their rights, and championing their needs. While empathy says, “I think I understand your experience,” advocacy asserts, “I take your side and fight for your rights.”
Core Principles of User Advocacy
- User Bill of Rights: Advocacy involves fighting for user involvement in the design process. User Research is crucial for UX. This includes ensuring users have rights to ease of use, relevant content, and an overall positive experience.
- Prioritizing User-Centricity: In the rush to meet deadlines, User Advocacy ensures that users remain at the forefront of design decisions. This safeguards against “Lean UX” practices that might sideline user needs.
- Effective communication: Advocacy isn’t just about speaking up for users—it’s also about effectively conveying their needs and behaviors in discussions, meetings, and decision-making processes. You need evidence from the field showing user behavior. You must also teach stakeholders how to use it so they don’t sabotage your UX efforts.
- Promoting User Research: Advocacy extends to championing user research efforts, including user testing and field research, which bring valuable insights into the design process.
- Spreading advocacy: User Advocacy isn’t limited to designers; it’s about fostering a culture where all team members become advocates for users, like at Apple. Education and mentorship are vital in spreading this mindset.
User Advocacy isn’t merely a nice-to-have; it’s necessary for successful UX. It’s an investment in creating designs that truly resonate with users and create a positive impact. By developing this skill, UX professionals become true champions for their users, ensuring that design choices reflect genuine user needs.
See this User Advocacy Masterclass (or have us bring it to your team).