You Get What You Pay For

One of the lessons that I find to be simultaneously essential to learn and incredibly difficult to teach is an idea that I refer to by the shorthand “being a consultant”–the notion of saving the customer from themselves.

Paul Sherman’s amazing presentation “The UX Unicorn is Dead” (if you haven’t read it, stop reading this and go read that) highlights an excellent opportunity to save the customer from themselves: customers asking to forgo UX or QA work (or, in some horrifying instances UX and QA work) in exchange for a lower price or faster timeline.

You get what you pay for.

As a veteran developer, I can tell you with absolute certainty that it is exceedingly rare to find a developer of quality that can do testing adequately. It is similarly rare to find a developer of quality that has the ability and the training to perform UX tasks.

During the planning phases of a feature, it is the UX practitioner that I turn to for expertise in creating a unified experience for the user that remains consistent and engaging. Prototyping can certainly aid in this area, but it is in no way a replacement for the skill and knowledge that my UX team brings to the table.

Likewise, speaking with an expert tester (and if you don’t believe testing is a skill that requires expertise, you don’t really deserve a seat at the decision-making table here) is how features end up with sufficient testing coverage–automated and otherwise. If you’ve ever sat in a room where engineers are discussing the feature they’ve puzzled out how to build without a member of the QA team, you’ve almost assuredly gotten to watch that glorious moment when the QA practitioner rattles off a series of “what happens in this case” questions, deflating the room. It’s fun to watch, and it’s entirely avoidable.

So as consultants, it is our job to convince our clients that the decisions they are making out of sensitivity to cost or timeline are going to be infinitely more expensive or time consuming in the future. We have to convince them that they’re getting what they pay for, and that cuts both ways. We have to save them from themselves.

Or we could just deliver mediocre software.