1. You cannot convince them, but you have to show them the way.
If you find yourself trying to prove that your stakeholders are wrong and that you “the white knight of design” are right, stop immediately. Don’t spend time finding evidence or articles that disprove what your stakeholders have already ingrained in their mind. Simply show them that you’ve done your homework.
Nobody intentionally wants to build a bad product.
Be proactive in bringing product owners, developers, and directors into your UX process (and please be sure to have a process!). Nobody intentionally wants to build a bad product. So you need to start having conversations about what they or the business value. Take the time to listen. So when you show your work, it reflects what they value served alongside the needs of your users. These conversations are key as you build relationships and trust within the organization.
Have them make decisions about the product that affect users AND let them see the results of their decisions. Then take those results and improve upon the designs that were based on the team’s decision. So when you show your work, it reflects what they value.
Not only are you learning about what they value, you may have noticed that they are learning from YOU as well. They will be your biggest allies down the road and will bring that design ethos to meetings you aren’t privy to. You’ll realize that they will repeat the design thinking conversations in those meetings. Just as you will be bringing in that business thinking into your work. This is the foundational work you must do to upfront before you can start making an impact.
2. Learn how to so say NO in creative and delicate ways.
You’re in these meetings now, and things are being discussed. Do not sit idle while decisions are being made. Speak up and say no when conversations go awry. Your silence may as well be considered consent.
When you say something, you will turn some heads. Especially when it disagrees with the “consensus” of the room. Remember that currently you are the single person who will be representing UX.
Do your best to redirect the conversation to the problem and avoid critiquing a stakeholder’s ideas on the spot.
Bring up questions about how will this affect the user or what will make this better from an experience standpoint. Better yet, get to the point where you want to improve their idea, but also explore other solutions so that the thinking a bit wider in scope.
Be willing to collaborate with them, not for the sake of “UX”, but for the sake of helping them become successful while keeping their customers in mind. Especially if the ask is small in nature. Earn their trust on the small things first, as eventually you’ll be carrying multiple large project deliverables later.
3. Be transparent in how you solve problems.
If you are only showing your finished high fidelity mock-ups, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. When you are a team of one, you realize 95% of your work isn’t sitting in front of Photoshop or Sketch. It’s communicating the thought process behind your design.
At first it is scary, but persevere and cover your walls and hallways with your conceptual designs, wire-frames, and workflows. Invite anyone around you for their thoughts an opinions, and ask open ended questions about the “problem” and not the design. Collaborate and involve developers/product in the design and have them make decisions about the interactions. You don’t need to commit to those solutions, but you need to explore the ideas with them even if it doesn’t work out. They need to see the design thinking behind your decisions and what you said no to. They want to build great stuff too and they just need to know that the hard work of getting something RIGHT is worth it.
You alone cannot usher in the change the business may require to be successful.
I know, it’s a tough one to swallow, but if you change the minds of the ones you work with, you’ll realize the power you wield is far greater than you thought.