All too often, we present our best design ideas only to have a stakeholder suggest something that degrades our well-thought-out solution. And when that stakeholder is a client or boss, explaining why their idea is terrible can be challenging for obvious reasons.
It may seem counterintuitive, but presenting bad design solutions that the stakeholder or client may suggest before they do demonstrates why those potential ideas will not work. By preempting these possible less effective solutions, we can prevent bad ideas from arising during the conversation and keep the process on track.
The ability to preempt what a stakeholder may propose requires a good understanding of their needs. And in many cases, experience dealing with particular stakeholders is helpful as well, as knowing how they think can provide valuable insight into what they may suggest.
For example, if you are working with a sales or marketing person who has expressed the need for lead generation, they may be inclined to suggest something like a subscribe pop-up form. In such a case, it would be our responsibility to explain that we have thought about this route and express why it would not work based on specific data, thus snuffing out the suggestion before it happens and providing a solution that still meets their needs while maintaining a good user experience.
Of course, stakeholders will often have valuable insights that can lead to better solutions. The key is to be prepared for these alternative suggestions and ensure they can be backed up by research.
However, we will inevitably encounter stubborn stakeholders and clients. For these folks, no amount of data will persuade them that their ideas are terrible. The best option here is to do our best and document everything. When the design fails, we can revisit the problem and make the necessary adjustments, knowing what not to do next time.