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Has the Jury Reached a Verdict? A Courtroom Analogy for UX

Making the right decision doesn’t have to be a trial by fire. Let’s look outside of UX to a place where there is a long-established skill set and model for determining truth that supports decision making and sets precedents. Where else is the truth sought using subjective and well-informed reasoning, supported by facts, amongst strong opinions in complex social and business contexts? What about referencing English law for insight on how project teams can collaborate to overcome the challenges and biases associated with participation of multiple roles and perspectives (see Figure 1)?

Diagram comparing roles in law and UX comparing observer and facilitator in UX to Cross Examiner and Closing Statement in law
Figure 1. An illustration of the UX and law comparison.

English law has been in existence since the twelfth century. It’s been exported to most Commonwealth countries, and remains part of United States’ law as well. The essence of English common law is that it is made by judges sitting in courts, applying their common sense and knowledge of legal precedent to the facts of the case in consideration. Sound familiar?

The New Product as the Plaintiff

The new design can be considered the plaintiff. It might be a proposed new landing page or a site redesign. It is the party that is bringing the challenge. The project itself is the proponent for comparing the existing design to the new design. If a ruling is made in favor of the plaintiff, this changes the status quo, sets numerous precedents in an organization, and commits resources.

The Existing or Competitor Product as the Defendant

In many cases the existing product is defending its incumbent position under challenge from the plaintiff. In competitive analysis it is the competitor product that is under scrutiny in the case. When considering competitors, it can be easier for the product team to dismiss them as less worthwhile, but when the team has already invested significant effort in their own plaintiff, their objectivity is compromised by their engagement with the new product.

The Product Manager as the Judge or Magistrate

The product manager executes the decisions that affect the product’s development and sets precedents using the evidence presented, or the verdict that has been reached. UX insight is a key source of this evidence in a customer-centric organization. Judges and product managers both have the discretion to set aside their jury’s verdict in certain circumstances.

Stakeholder Observers as the Jury

Unlike English law, UX jury selection should not involve the random element intended to ensure a range of society’s perspectives. The jury, at a usability or stakeholder review, should comprise a range of skills from the project team including, at a minimum, one User Interface (UI) designer and one business or systems analyst. This minimum requirement is necessary to avoid any bias toward a business or design perspective, or opinion related to observations and interpretations.

UX Observer/Notetaker as the Expert Witness

If the UX role in the observation room is confined solely to taking notes and does not extend to managing stakeholder observers, this person does little more than the job of the court reporter, the person who records all courtroom proceedings. Product development doesn’t normally afford days of deliberation following the study, so decision making requires optimization. Mentoring non-UX colleagues in the observation room, as expert witnesses bring expertise to a trial, maximizes the value you can obtain from every session by leveraging a process of sharing and discussing observations and viewpoints prior to a findings workshop, presentation, or report.

Participants as the Witnesses

Usability participants play a key role in evaluating the effectiveness of a design. They are like the witnesses who take the stand and tell the truth, but not always the whole truth. UX practitioners are well aware of the Hawthorne effect, incentive effects, and other biases that require us to critically consider the respondents’ feedback.

UX Facilitator as the Lawyer

Without the facilitation of a lawyer, many witnesses on the stand would be unable to sufficiently articulate relevant points in the time they are allotted. The facilitator is an expert at asking the right questions to elicit helpful and pointed feedback in a limited timeframe. At the close of proceedings and at key points throughout the trial, the lawyer sums up proceedings in key themes and recites the details that are most relevant to the case.


Applying a variety of perspectives from multi-disciplinary team members to projects generally produces a positive outcome, à la “We are greater than the sum of our parts.” Isn’t this the driver behind collaboration? However, when working with overlapping skill sets and personality types, it can be a challenge to achieve a good, working balance. Using English law and the structure of a courtroom as a metaphor, we can explore how the roles in the long-established practice of law provide a useful mental model for mentoring colleagues and enabling UX maturity, while seeking to maintain a collaborative balance in projects.

What’s your verdict?自 12 世纪以来,法院一直是一种寻求真理的形式。既然 UX 亦求真理,那么,协作如何得益于法院的运作原则呢?这篇文章将 UX 比喻为设计的辩护人和起诉人。

在项目中采用多学科团队成员的各种观点通常能产生积极的结果。不过,工作时如果遇到重叠的技能和个性类型,对于实现协同平衡会是一大难题。使用英国法律和法庭体制作为一个隐喻,我们可以探究在长期的法律实践中,不同角色如何为辅导同事提供了有用的心智模型,促进 UX的 成熟,同时在项目中寻求维持一种协同平衡。

文章全文为英文版12세기부터 진실을 고도로 추구해온 곳인 ‘법정’이라는 곳에서 어떻게 협력을 보다 잘 해낼 수 있을까요? 이 기사는 디자인에 대한 방어자 겸 공격자로서의 UX 지위를 부여하고 있습니다.

여러 전문 분야로 이루어진 팀원의 다양한 관점을 프로젝트에 적용할 경우 일반적으로 긍정적 결과를 얻습니다. 하지만 중복된 스킬 종류와 성격들이 만나면 협력에서 균형을 찾기 어려울 수 있습니다. 영국법과 법정 구조를 상징으로 하여 오랜 법률 집행에서의 역할이 어떻게 동료 멘토링을 가능케하고 UX를 성숙시킬 유용한 정신적 모델이 되는지를 알아보고 그러면서도 프로젝트의 협력에서 균형을 유지하는지 알아볼 것입니다.

전체 기사는 영어로만 제공됩니다.Como a sua colaboração pode se beneficiar dos princípios de outra busca disciplinada pela verdade que ocorre desde o século XII: o tribunal de justiça? Este artigo posiciona a experiência do usuário como defensora e promotora do design.

Aplicar diversas perspectivas dos membros de uma equipe multidisciplinar a projetos geralmente produz resultados positivos. No entanto, ao trabalhar com conjuntos de habilidades e tipos de personalidade que se sobrepõem, pode ser um desafio obter um equilíbrio colaborativo. Usando a Lei Inglesa e a estrutura de um tribunal como metáfora, nós podemos explorar como as funções da prática do direito, estabelecida há muito tempo, proporcionam um modelo mental útil para aconselhar colegas e permitir a maturidade da experiência do usuário buscando manter um equilíbrio colaborativo nos projetos.

O artigo completo está disponível somente em inglês.12世紀から続く規律ある真実探求の理念、すなわち裁判所からコラボレーションが利益を得る方法とは何だろうか。この記事では、UXをデザインの被告および検察として据えている。


原文は英語だけになります¿Cómo puede beneficiarse la colaboración de los principios de otra búsqueda disciplinada de la verdad que ha estado funcionando desde el siglo XII: el tribunal de justicia? Este artículo posiciona a la experiencia de usuario como defensores y fiscales del diseño.

Generalmente, aplicar a los proyectos una variedad de perspectivas de miembros de equipos multidisciplinarios produce resultados positivos. No obstante, cuando se trabaja con una serie de aptitudes y tipos de personalidades que se superponen, lograr un equilibrio colaborativo puede ser un desafío. Al usar la ley inglesa y la estructura de la sala del tribunal como metáfora, podemos explorar cómo las funciones en la larga tradición de la práctica de la ley proporcionan un modelo mental útil para orientar a los colegas y permitir la madurez de la experiencia de usuario, al mismo tiempo que se trata de mantener el equilibrio colaborativo en los proyectos.

La versión completa de este artículo está sólo disponible en inglés.