Christopher Mollard

User Experience contractor designer researcher developer lead

Winning the UX tug of war

Sometimes being a User Experience practitioner means picking and choosing your battles.

The world of UX can sometimes be a tug of war with other stakeholders.

A few months ago I discovered this great article on the use of icons in web design. It presents a great argument which is backed up with research, just for those times when businesses push back on accessibility with comments like:

  • "let's just use an icon, we don't need the word"
  • "we don't need design for this but, let's just do what we've always done"
  • "make it snappier, cleaner, different"


The article does a great job of presenting a view that I agree with, even if I didn't quite realise all the reasons prior to reading it, and is certainly a help when it comes to presenting an argument to those that we work with on projects.

As beneficial as user-centred design is the reality is that UX activities on a project end up being won and lost in a five-way tug of war - either with colleagues who don't believe in what you're doing / struggle to see the benefit or with the business who don't want to invest the time. The way to win is by picking your battles and using evidence to back up decisions - as well as user research / accessibility testing of course being key to validating design decisions, the outcomes also go a long way to helping convince those around you that those activities in themselves are worthwhile. Slow and steady progress converts the doubters into UCD believers.

If I am ever struggling in this situation, I just need to remind myself of the following research led validation:

The fact that text labels never need graphic tooltips is a pretty good clue that text is better than icons