IA Summit 12: Empower Yourself. Negotiate for the User.

I really enjoyed Empower Yourself. Negotiate for the User by Carol Smith. For a 20 minute session I think she did a great job touching on the primary principles of negotiating and how to negotiate for the benefit of both parties. 

She starts by saying that great social skills = great experiences. Men, are generally more comfortable negotiating than women, who have been shown to compare enjoying negotiating about as much as they enjoy going to the dentist. Additionally Americans generally have less experience with negotiating as compared to some other countries.


The first thing to learn when it comes to negotiating is the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, or BATNA. Your BATNA is your course of action should a negotiated agreement fail, otherwise put, it’s your alternative. You should never disclose your BATNA to the parties in the negotiation, and if possible make them start the negotiations. Your BATNA is not the same as a walk-away, but instead is a alternative that protects you while permitting exploration.

Example 1

Let’s say we have two people interviewing for the same job at a company with the same skills, Jay and Laura. Laura is would like to make 72k, but is winging it and has no BATNA. She accepts the first offer of 70k. Jay on the other hand has a BATNA in mind that says he’ll just stay at his current job for anything less than 75k. When offered 70k, he negotiates up to 77k.

Example 2

Susan’s AC broke in her mini-van, the one she just had repaired less than a year ago. She took it to the repair shop with a BATNA in mind that she would not pay for anything but the labor, because this is the second time the AC has broken. When the repair man quotes her $975 she asked how much labor was. After a little back and forth, she was able to get it fixed for $200.


Negotiating isn’t about winning or loosing, it’s about alternatives. You shouldn’t burn bridges when you negotiate, but don’t accept the first offer either. Try not to focus on one point, think about alternatives, what else can be negotiated? For example when negotiating for a job, if the salary can’t be changed, what about vacation time, or a signing bonus? If you don’t ask, you will end up with less.

Negotiating in UX

Things to negotiate:

  • Scope
  • Resources
  • Methods
  • Artifacts
  • Solutions

Think about the person/people you are negotiating with. What is important to them: ROI, cost, schedule, etc. Research and know this before going into negotiations. What is their preferred strategy? Then separate the people from the problem. It is not about the people in the room, minimize any emotions and think about how the outcome will affect the users. Focus on shared interests: past experiences, benefit to the organization and user, savings, mutual gains etc. What can you do to work together within the constraints. Be sure to use objective criteria and standards in the negotiations: measurements, analytics, SUS scores, benchmarks etc.


  1. Identify and remember your BATNA.
  2. Negotiation is only about Negotiations.
  3. Find the best solutions for both.

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