User Experience design is big business, and there is money to be made. In fact, Andrew Kucheriavy reports in Forbes that on average, the return on investment for user experience is 9,900%. In layperson’s terms, that is a hundred dollars return on every dollar invested.
To achieve numbers like that, UX and UI designers need to deliver consistently excellent user experiences. That is where UX proposals come in. A UX proposal can help bolster the argument for user experience design and give stakeholders an understanding of a project and its scope.
If you want design-driven innovation, get used to writing UX proposals. A good proposal takes time to create and should not be rushed.
In this post, the Justinmind team will go over what UX proposal is and how you can start writing your own.
What is a UX proposal?
UX designs are rarely if ever, created on a whim. Any good designer will tell you that their decisions rely heavily on in-depth research and investigation. Even the smallest change to a UI element on a website or in a mobile app can cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Understanding this, it is clear that UX proposals have a firm place in the design process. But what is a UX proposal?
A UX proposal is an outline or plan of a proposed change to the UX design of a mobile app, website or product. A proposal outlines a problem and presents a solution
It is the UX designer’s job to articulate that problem-solution relationship in a proposal and offer the route to overcoming the problem in the best way possible.
A change can be anything from tweaking the position of UI elements or an overhaul of your product page.
When it comes to a brief, being brief is best.
Why Write a UX Proposal?
While a UX proposal at first glance may seem like a daunting undertaking, it is vital for both designer and stakeholder to be on the same page, understanding the same problems. A proposal acts as a reference for everybody involved in the project as well as the scope of the said project.
A UX proposal is useful because it sets expectations before a project starts, by defining in clear terms what will happen during the UX design process.
Despite UX design‘s high ROI, its benefits are still not universally acknowledged. When it comes to selling your proposal, highlighting the benefits can help you get the green light. Some benefits of a UX proposal include:
- Better products
- Streamlined workflow
- Less risk
- Insight discovery
It is not uncommon to hear designers and clients alike use the term design brief when referring to a UX proposal. The terms are interchangeable so use whichever phrase you feel most comfortable with. We will refer to it as a UX proposal here.
When to Write a UX Proposal
UX and UI designers love to identify problems and offer practical solutions, but before you start getting stuck into your UX proposal, it is a good idea to first speak with your client before embarking on a proposal.
In sales, door-to-door salespeople will make their way through neighbourhoods to try and get people to buy their products. This first interaction is used to qualify leads and present products.
Then later down the line, another salesperson will usually come and close the sale. This is the traditional sales process condensed.
UX designers, in their way, have to qualify leads with their stakeholders before embarking on a proposal, which would lead to a close. A pitch, if you will.
The best time to write a UX design proposal is after you have whetted the appetite of your stakeholders – that is how you get buy-in for UX. In a meeting, at a cafe, or over dinner – where you explain the problem to them is not as important as the how.
If you want to start the conversation with stakeholders on good footing, try creating a Typeform so that onboarding is more successful. A Typeform is particularly useful if you are unable to meet in person.
Outline the problem in a clear and concise way. Offer the solution and, this is vital, explain how the solution is a benefit to them and the overall business goals.
According to Susan Farrell at Nielsen Norman Group, collaborating early with stakeholders like this can help prevent design problems and increase visibility for UX design.
To go back to the sales analogy, let us say our salesperson is selling double-glazed windows. Remember that people respond to benefits, not features. The customer does not necessarily care that the windows are double-glazed (a feature). But they will care that their heating bill will be reduced by 30% (a benefit).
When stakeholders understand the benefits, they will be more likely to come on board with your UX proposal. Whitney Hess believes that we should vow to serve our stakeholders with the same compassion and commitment as our users.
How to Write a UX Proposal
After you have got the go-ahead from key stakeholders, it is time to start crafting that all important proposal.
Any proposal will need to have a project name, date and details of who are the stakeholders involved.
Let us go over the steps which will show you how to write a UX proposal.
Define the problem
Here is where you state what is preventing you from reaching your goals. Defining the problem involves identifying the causes of the problem so that you can solve it.
Richard Olomo, a UX designer at Booking.com, writes that the definition stage helps us to string together atomised ideas for better insights.
Your problem statement should come out of an understanding of business objectives, the context of product use and user goals. When you know this information, you will be able to deliver business value with your proposed solutions.
To get that information, you will have to involve those who are affected by the problem with the following methods:
- Observed events
A good tip is to maintain easy to understand language and avoid jargon when you write your problem statement.
When talking to key stakeholders, especially during the initial stages of your proposal, Jeffrey Zeldman suggests neutral listening to avoid the desire of solving problems and instead listen and truly hear what your stakeholders are saying. Stakeholders are people too, after all.
There are services available which can help you create a proposal. Services like PandaDoc are excellent if you want a drag and drop interface. The beauty of apps like PandaDoc is that you can include cost and margin calculations and payment deadlines.
Provide background information
Why is this proposal necessary? In this part of the UX proposal, you will outline what led to this plan. Feel free to discuss the history of the project. Maybe you have come across similar issues in the past. Here is where you will address that.
Understand your goals and expected outcomes
Your goals should not be a shopping list of items. In just a few sentences, you should succinctly outline the goals for the proposal. If you find that you have many goals, then you might need to create more than one proposal. Staying focused on just a couple of issues at a time can prevent everyone from being overwhelmed and create a better workflow.
For example: the goal of this UX design proposal is to create and implement a new design for the sign-up landing page to drive up conversions.
It does not need to be more complicated than that. In fact, the simpler, the better.
After you have explained the problem and helped stakeholders understand it, it is time to provide the solution by outlining the deliverables necessary to be successful. Most UX design projects involve research, design and then validation so keep this in mind when thinking about deliverables.
Try not to be vague at this stage. Something like “improve overall UX” can take many meanings depending on the reader. That is where KPIs and metrics come in useful.
Defining your deliverables will depend on the project at hand, but if we carry on our example from above your deliverables might involve:
- Carrying out a competitor analysis
- Creating personas
- User flows
- Capturing UX requirements
- Creating an interactive prototype
- User testing
Nick Babich has created a complete list of UX deliverables to help you out.
If your UX proposal involves a big overhaul, like a website redesign, do not be afraid to break down the deliverables into stages or phases so that the scope of the work is less momentous. If you break down the project timelines will be easier to estimate. Getting key team players involved in this process is vital considering 82% of UX professionals collaborate with other team members on deliverables they produce.
Likewise, if you are carrying out research, do not forget that you will need to undertake a separate research plan.
Assumptions are just events that are expected to occur during the project life cycle – often without any proof or evidence, hence the name assumptions.
You need to make assumptions about the project to be able to progress. Since you cannot have all the information at your disposal before you begin a project, making assumptions helps the process get off the ground and offers a loose but changeable structure.
An assumption could be something like: the prototyping development phase will be limited to 4 weeks and will include up to 4 revisions or research will be carried out every Friday, when the UX researcher is available, for 3 weeks.
Of course, your assumptions are subject to change, but that is okay because assumptions are not set in stone. Rikke Dam suggests even challenging your assumptions for better ideation and innovation.
What is the expected timeline and budget?
Be generous with your time. Giving yourself tight deadlines can lead to stress and poor work. If you are generous and realistic with how the project will pan out, it can help avoid any misunderstandings along the way.
If you know that there are parts of the project which are out of your hands or rely on external forces, do not neglect to mention that.
Consider using a Gantt chart. Gantt charts help illustrate the timeline of a project, can keep you on top of deadlines and are useful for highlighting milestones. They are simple, easy to read charts which break down the structure of projects and are a visual aid to project planning and scheduling.
When it comes to the budget, Quote Roller can help you. It is full of pricing features and can calculate your profit margins as well as apply discounts and even lets prospective clients comment to avoid dreaded back and forth. A neat feature of Quote Roller is that clients can pick items on an à la carte basis.
Good UX design can bring profit to the business. That much is known. Getting stakeholders on board is a different kettle of fish. A well-defined and thought out UX proposal can give UX designers the buy-in, influence and control they need to deliver a successful user experience.
Want to learn more?
Are you interested in the managerial and strategic aspects of UX? The online course on UX Management and Strategy can teach you the necessary skills on the subject and earn you an industry-recognized course certificate to advance your career. If, on the other hand, you want to brush up on the basics of UX and Usability, the online course on User Experience might be a better fit for you (or another design topic). Good luck on your learning journey!