CX Insights

How to overcome resistance to the implementation of User-Centered Design

5 min read

Incorporating usability techniques and processes of User-Centered Design (UCD) in companies that are not used to working with them can become a daunting task. Over and over again we hear arguments that justify the rejection and invalidate the possibility of change, even if this is minimal. This article describes the most common arguments we hear, and proposes concrete actions to refute the negatives.

by Doug Savage (

Common barriers and excuses to implementing UCD

Over the past ten years, I have had the opportunity to work for companies of different markets and I find that the difficulties and barriers to implementing UCD are quite similar, regardless of the type of company or sector in which they operate.

However, the problems are different depending on the degree of maturity of each company in relation to usability and user-centered design. Taking the maturity model developed by Keikendo (link in Spanish), an IT and UX training company, it is possible to address barriers and common excuses that the design and development teams typically use, and present each one of them with arguments and concrete actions that neutralize them:

Stage of maturityCommon barriers and excusesArguments and courses of action
1. Unintentional User experience is not designed intentionally.Ignorance: Usability and UX discipline is unknown.Training.
Rejection: Experience design is considered unnecessary.Do nothing. They will discover the UX value on their own.
Incompatibility: The methodology does not allow user testing.Do usability testing with the finished product to expose the problems.
2. Self-reference Interface is designed as if users were members of the design and development team.Cost constraints.With 10% of the total budget of a project you can achieve an 83% improvement.
Time constraints.


A round of user testing can be completed in one week.
Lack of specialized resources.


Outsourcing, hire new resources or train existing ones.
3. Expert Based on the experience of one person. There is no method.No formalized methodology.


Design and implement a feasible methodology, not an ideal one.
Perception of uncertainty on results.


Quantitative and qualitative assessments during the test.
4. Centralized There is person in charge of experience design. There is a method.Usability and user experience is required for certain projects, not for all of them.Use metrics from projects based on UCD and compare them with projects that used other methodologies.
5. Distributed All teams are aware of usability and UCD. There is a method.Resistance from senior management.ROI is the keyword: Take metrics and show how the UCD boosts ROI.

Table: The five maturity levels, the barriers and the actions to take.

Specific arguments and courses of action to fight resistance:

Training : Some of the actions you can take when your client doesn’t know anything about usability and user-centered design are providing introductory courses, invite them to professional meetings or even explain the main concepts at informal meetings.

Choose your battles: The arguments heard rejecting UCD range from “boring” to “not necessary”. Whatever the case, it is not worth spending too much time convincing naysayers. The impact of UCD on business, the final quality achieved for a given product, and improvements in customer satisfaction are explicit benefits. Being against UCD is based mainly on dogma than reason.

User testing: In addition to being one of the main techniques of UCD, user testing is a powerful realization tool. It is important to involve design and development team members, and even invite managers and stakeholders to the usability sessions.  Watching and listening to users has a magical effect on those who continue to oppose to this methodology.

Comparing costs: In order to dissolve the excuse about costs, just demonstrate what the cost of not using a user-centered design methodology would be. The UCD is more efficient than other methods and reduces costs in development, maintenance, training, and support.

Prioritizing with time constraints: UCD allows for prioritization initiatives.  When time is short it is very important to decide which tasks should be carried out within the time available to obtain the best possible results. A round of user testing with just five users allows identifying most of the usability problems of any interface and can be done in one week. At the end of just one round, valuable information is gathered to support future design and development decisions.

Relying on experts: If the project is important for the company don’t hesitate to hire a consultant o a UX agency. In addition to solving the problem, the company can learn from them during the process.

Remove barriers related to the methodology: The process of UCD is not dogmatic.  In fact, it is considered one of the so-called agile methodologies, defined as a process rather than a structured methodology. This allows greater flexibility and adaptability to the requirements of each specific project.

Reducing uncertainty: The best way to generate certainty and reduce resistance to the adoption of user-centered design is to show quantitative and qualitative results from using this method. This involves measuring key variables of each project. The three most common variables are: effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction.

Break the resistance of stakeholders: From a business perspective it is more convincing to use metrics that feed into the traditional equation of a successful Web site: I = V x C x R, where:

  • I: Income
    V: Number of unique visitors
    C: Conversion rate
    R: Return rate


What’s been your experience? Share your feedback in the comments.

Juan Manuel is a guest blogger for Usabilla. Are you interested in writing a post for us? Please contact

Juan Manuel Carraro
Usability and user-centered design consultant. Love the challenge of covering gaps between business perspective and end users.