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Why should you know more about UX?
Design goes hand in hand with business. If you look at the Design Value Index that takes 16 of the best design-driven companies in comparison with S&P 500 - it shows they can outrun industry peers by as much as 228%. A study by Design Council showed that for every £100 a design alert business spends on design, turnover increases by £225. The benefit of investing in design has been seen across industries in both product and service-based sectors. The highest Total Return to Stakeholders can be found in medical technology, but consumer goods and retail banking are not far behind.
Design has been really gaining momentum in the last decade, 1 in 10 companies from the Fortune 100 list employs designers on managerial positions. Fortune magazine, in their “Business by Design” package, highlights two dozen companies that have turned a commitment to design into a competitive advantage. There’s also a pretty fun investment experiment from Teehan+Lax (now Facebook) called the UX Fund which ended up with a 450,14% overall return.
How to measure UX design?
Often businesses find it hard to measure and define design in their business strategies. For a good deal, the impact of design is often measured in qualitative metrics that have a lot to do with emotional responses of customers, like brand sentiment or the level of customer satisfaction. On a side note, I found the Kano model to be the best tool for the latter. Tracking ROI in design can be daunting, and there’s a very good case against doing it at all. Alan Cooper (one of the fathers of interaction design) in a recent article wrote:
If your boss is asking you to quantify the value of your work, you need to understand that your work indeed has no value. Not at that company. Not with that boss.
However, there are some tangible metrics catered to specific business goals that can apply to design, to name just a few: increase in productivity and conversion, reduction of learning curves, decrease in reliance on help desks or decrease in drop-off rates and more that can be calculated using special calculators.
The basics of UX design and design in general are quite in-line or cross paths with business methodologies, as they involve research on target audience, getting more data with interviews, modeling ideas, prototyping and testing with real users.
What is UX and UI?
It’s hard to separate the two. If you’re new to the topic, UX is a person's perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service. The key part here is that it’s not the designer’s perspective and it’s also not what people say they want - responses are not always what’s verbalized, that’s why observation, testing and ideation are such big parts of the UX process.
UI on the other hand is short for user Interface and it’s basically the face of the product with the goal to make it easy, efficient, and enjoyable to operate whether it’s a machine, software or any other merchandise that produces a desired result.
What does “good UX” actually mean?
Good UX is good design. In general, it’s about understanding how people make choices and for the most part you won’t get that answer without the people who will use your design. Knowing some universal principles of design like the hick’s law, gestalt principles or the doherty threshold is very helpful, but the really important part in good UX relates to users, understands what they’re trying to do, works smoothly in the proper contexts, anticipates actions and makes tedious jobs delightful, empowering users in ways they didn’t think were possible. The concept of “You press a button. We do the rest.” is nothing new and is a quote from 1887 by George Eastman (Kodak), but it explains good UX in a nutshell.
Why does UX matter?
Customers’ expectations are rising, people expect a very personal experience tailored to their specific needs as well as contexts of use - UX is the field that makes that happen. People are more and more accustomed to the fact that machines or software do things for them. UX has more and more influence on how products are made and it should be a part of the product strategy from idea inception. Remember:
- 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel/perceive they are being treated
- Satisfied customers tell 4-5 people about their positive experience of cooperation with the supplier, unhappy - as much as 8-20 people.
- Repeat customers spend 67% more in individual purchases than new customers
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and UX Design
A lot of the clients we talk to want to just have their product out and say they will deal with UX later when there are users. It makes sense to validate the business model first, but it doesn’t make sense to put off your users at the very start - more than 80% of users will never go back to an app if it doesn’t make a good first impression.
UX doesn’t have to be just for the big players. According to Norman Nielsen Group, the world's foremost authority in UX. Simple user testing and interviewing of five users typically uncovers around 80% of all usability problems. Prepare a couple of hypotheses that you have about your product and recruit 5 participants who represent your target group and start observing how they interact with your product. This way you’ll complete your first usability test.
Now there is a couple of things to keep track of during these types of tests — prepare a testing scenario with real tasks to complete, follow the think aloud protocol and don’t guide users is a nice starting point. You might need some help with moderating these kind of sessions along with interpreting the results, from a UX specialist, but if you can’t afford one - it’s better to do it yourself rather than risk losing valuable feedback. The perfect time to start working on your UX design is right now.
Outsource UX or build an in-house team?
While in-house teams have generally a deeper look into the products they’re designing thus bring obvious time benefits in the discovery and define design phases, an outsourced team can bring a fresh look and innovation to the table while avoiding setup costs.
On the surface it might seem that hiring an in-house designer makes sense when comparing the cost rates. However, one has to keep in mind that a new employee comes along with a need of training, vacation, sick leave and hardware costs that you just don’t get with an outsourced design team.
It’s no secret that people and ideas flourish in creative teams and so is the same for designers. MVP products, startups don’t always have the resources to build or maintain a team right off the bat, while outsourcing UX gives that additional design environment leverage instantly.
If you’re just starting your business or considering hiring a UX designer in-house, it’s good to know that the design process comes in various ways and forms. While there is a general consensus across different models like: double diamond, user-centered design, design thinking or design sprints; the process, deliverables and methods applied differ slightly from team to team. Creating processes, aligning goals, agreeing on documentation and quality standards will prove to be a challenge for any fresh in-house team or a single designer. In comparison, with an outsourced UX team you get all that out of the box.
It’s also good to assess the UX offer, of a company that you’re thinking about hiring, against your own, with the Corporate UX Maturity stages. The company that is a right fit for you should be at a higher stage, but not not too far off as their processes will seem overblown for your needs and you’ll easily get discouraged.
Commissioning UX design
When commissioning design work try not to impose tunnel vision. Designers work best when there is room for innovation and validation. In a couple of cases customers came to us and just wanted us to concentrate on a specific screen or even a section of their page. While there is almost always room for optimization and adjustments of a specific part, UX designers perform best when taking the bigger picture into consideration.
There is nothing better to start with than a real problem users are having. One of our design sprints was devoted to solving a check-in issue for a ride hailing company. Because of certain technology choices the app allowed customers to check-in for the ride too early, the problem became really severe and there was time pressure, as it caused misconceptions, lost rides and disappointment. The company’s assumption was that we should only redesign the check-in screen, but it was clear that there were a whole bunch of missed opportunities to guide users along the flow. In order to solve the problem it turned out we had to differentiate views with different map styles, changed CTAs, deleted surplus information, add new screens, states, redesign the check-in screen... and a lot more of tiny changes that really made a difference, all within one design sprint. At the same time the concept was divided into development batches that were ready for implementation straight away, so they could address the problem asap, while other batches that completed the concept could wait for the next 2 development sprints.
If proper UX testing was incorporated into the design phase the problem users were having could’ve been dealt with without introducing it to the products full audience.
As quoted by Momentum Design and according to IEEE study, “5 to 15 % of all the development projects that are started will be abandoned before or shortly after delivery due to poor usability. This amounts to $150 billion lost. This loss can be avoided with a user-centered design approach. “
Why should you care?
Because design can have a positive effect on all business performance indicators, from turnover and profit to market share and competitiveness. On average, design alert businesses increase their market share by 6.3% through design. When design is done right it’s just all over the charts. In the second part of the article you will find a 7 success and warning stories from top companies including NETFLIX, Bank of America and VEVO.
In case you are struggling with your design or you’d like to make a UX review for your product - let me know and… consider it done!
Special thanks to Daniel Gościmiński, who helped us a lot while working on this post! Daniel, your knowledge, UI/UX expertise and insights were priceless. You're the MAN!
Software Brothers Team