Experiences with impact


Make it safe to advocate

Profit, People, and the Planet. Make your business contribute to experiences with impact.

What is it?

One of our core ux principles at Yoyo is Keep it simple.1 That doesn’t mean boring, it doesn’t always mean basic either. It means, taking a critical look at what does and doesn’t contribute to experiences with impact, and be brave enough to ask whether or not something really is needed.

Time and resources can then be saved and wherever possible, used on more impactful projects or features. This works both on a project by project basis, as well as in a larger operational context, too.

Well aren’t we all that way? It sounds obvious, but there are levels to it. Simply veto-ing an old feature that everyone internally hates, isn’t tough because it isn’t controversial. Very little justification will be needed if your most empowered stakeholders already agree with the idea. What’s tougher, is challenging well-intentioned ideas that have come from well-intentioned management, critical stakeholders who are funding the project, colleagues who really need a “win” this week because of circumstances unseen and assuming the risk associated with sticking your head above the parapet to ask whether we really definitely need that new feature that our competitors are implementing, (even though we didn’t think it was a good idea until they did).

This is where the simple narrative of the righteous design team with one united mission to save the world, gets a bit sticky. Within the field of UX, there are many schools of thought on what should drive decisions, but the most consistent is the needs of the user. But without conversion there’s usually no profit, without profit there’s no team, without a team there’s no product and then there’s no user to advocate for at all. So, how do we advocate for intentional design practices if we admit that the intention isn’t always as crystal clear as many would pretend on linkedin?

First and foremost create a space where debate, and being curious (another of our core values) is safe.1 If you’ve ever sat in a product workshop where everyone is silently aware that only one or two of the people there can voice their ideas and concerns without risk of wider repercussions - then you’ll understand the importance of this. Define and agree on north star priorities that pervade all projects, and commit to making them welcome in discussions, even if it could throw a spanner into someone's ambitions. Ours for example can be found here.

Our principles drive the agency's decisions and keep everyone aligned.

That means when a team member brings up the huge carbon cost of the less-than-necessary new 4k video content your projects rarely-visited ‘Meet the team’ page, they feel safe to do so. Equally, when someone advocates for the importance of a research phase activity to check whether ot not the site needs to track every click a user makes, and have one hundred pages, it needs to be heard over the universal urge to avoid delivering any news to stakeholders that doesn’t sounds like “we’ve finished, and every single thing you asked for is a great idea - and included!”.

It’s harder than it looks, and it means trial, error and honest conversations about what matters, and what might need to be sacrificed in the short term for the good of the long-term. It means being brave, occasionally causing a very awkward silence in a meeting and constantly learning to create a toolbox of ways to communicate the importance of asking questions, and giving honest answers. There’s no destination, and it will be an on-going and ever changing quest, but it’s no good giving a sh*t (our third and final Yoyo value1) about the environment, sustainability, users or, great design, and not being able to speak it into reality.

70 percent of U.S. workers said that a firm's environmental record is important to them and is a consideration when deciding whether they’d accept a role there.2

Why should I care?

Our environmental impact in the digital industries, is in some ways more insidious, because to the average user- it is invisible. Especially as emission breakdowns by sector seen in the media, often don’t include digital, because our work spreads across infinite industries. However that is changing, with the hottest summer days on record here in the UK, devastating wildfires in Australia and the US and locust storms in Africa, to name a few of the now sadly tangible effects of climate change felt by people all over the globe, every organisation has more than just consumer trends to be aware of.

Internal teams, those who facilitate and produce the smaller parts that make up a whole product, see actionable opportunities and can implement the day to day changes that will have a big impact on our environment. However, they can’t illuminate these opportunities if they can’t safely ask the hard questions. As the climate problem becomes everyone’s problem, people are voting with their feet.

According to a 2021 poll by Gallup poll, 70 percent of U.S. workers said that a firm's environmental record is important to them and is a consideration when deciding whether they’d accept a role there.2 Additionally, 25% of the participants referred to corporate environmental records as a "major factor" in their decision. To retain, and gain talent, a space to safely express and action concerns that could save the earth is becoming a non-negotiable.

The creation of a culture where people can be curious, have debates and challenge one another, should be in the top 3 priorities of any company Chief Executive Officer.

Jenny Kitchen, Chief Executive Officer

What can I do right now?

Have honest conversations that define values everyone can safely follow.

If you’re in a reasonable position to do so, start a conversation about what’s important. This conversation works best outside of any specific projects, and should involve as many people as possible. Depending on the current state of your organisation's culture that might mean starting with anonymously collecting everyone’s views to begin with. If everyone can’t seem to explain them with any specificity, if your values are too vague to action or, if your teams don’t find they can follow them in practice - it’s time to get everyone aligned. Being safe to action values, means that as long as staff are respectful and fulfilling their responsibilities - they shouldn’t fear for their financial security, or social safety when voicing concerns about the ethical and environmental practices at your organisation.

Don’t go it alone, use a framework of organisation who are on the same journey.

The environment, well being of your staff and performance that keeps everyone safe in their roles are some universally applicable values to start with. B-Corp certification has been a north-star that has guided us at Yoyo to do just that. B-Corp certification means a company has met a defined standard of high social and environmental performance, legal commitment and transparency. It takes time for most organisations to attain certification, and rightfully so as the process involves a rigorous, helpful and often transformative audit of every aspect of how your organisation can do better. It doesn’t involve binning profits, or making boring work though. Thank goodness.

Read more about B-Corp certification