The fact that user experience design bridges the gap between user needs and business goals cannot be understated. UX brings with it tools, methodologies, and attitudes that can be applied beyond the design field to solve dynamic problems that arise.
However, UX doesn’t work in isolation.
The benefits of UX design are really highlighted when a business considers with equal seriousness other factors that could make or break a product’s success.
Meeting an actual need
Sometimes the most basic questions are the most important ones. Does your product actually fulfill an existing need? Is there a good market for your product?
Andy Rachleff came up with the concept of product/market fit, finding a pain point that has a market and creating a solution for them. The concept emphasises the importance of delivering something for a market.
A product that is sub-par, but the best solution available, will still do well. On the other hand, a great, well-designed product may fail because it does not have customers willing to buy it. If there’s no market, what difference will a good user experience make?
The process of finding product/market fit, however, is reminiscent of iterative design. It takes multiple attempts to understand user needs, prototype a solution, and test it for feedback. The iteration that finally works is not the ultimate one. It need not be great design, as much as usable. It does not imply an immediate product launch.
In cases where an organisation sets out to meet “untapped needs”, good UI/UX in the initial product is especially important so that users don’t outright reject it. The truth is that when users are aware of their needs, they are much more likely to put in the effort to navigate through an interface, unlike a product they don’t know they need.
User experience only becomes relevant when there are customers to engage with your product. Customer acquisition has become harder as the internet levels the playing field, more competitors pop up and content is churned out constantly.
While customer acquisition was initially envisioned as a “funnel-shaped” process (one that started with a visit and ended as a customer), it is now more a circular one of attracting, engaging, and delighting customers.
The UX design process is great for gathering information, exercising creativity, and solving problems. The direction you want to take your product, however, is solely up to you.
A product roadmap is a tool that allows you to lay down your vision for your product, in terms of short-term and long-term goals. It helps align the functions of different departments, prioritise what comes next in product development, and centres you when you veer off track.
Importantly, it becomes a tool on the basis of which you can make decisions without distractions. Unfortunately, keeping an eye on competition (more on that later) and listening to your customers can become intimidating if you are bombarded with requests for extra features or bogged down by competitors’ innovations.
The product roadmap allows you to pause and ask, whether these are decisions you would like to make yourself and why.
Dealing with competition
Dealing with competition is like walking a tightrope - on one side there is the threat of being completely oblivious to what they are doing, and on the other is the risk of losing your identity in trying to outdo them.
How then, do you cement your identity but keep up with their developments?
The answer comes in the form of learning from the competition. What are all the alternatives to your product? There may be more than you think. Who are your competitors targeting? What features are they offering? Are there any needs they are not fulfilling?
Competitive analysis is conducted early on in the user experience design process so that these questions are answered, and the designed solutions can represent the competitive edge of the product company.
The question of scalability
Your organisation is growing, and it’s exactly what you want. But do you have the resources to meet increasing customer demands? Will you be able to maintain the quality of your products as pressure on you increases?
You have to be cautious. Investing too much too early can lead to your downfall, but waiting too long can overwhelm you and harm your image. Developing a skilful scalable business model means hiring the right people, building key relationships with other companies, having strong marketing and a suitable technological environment.
Build software that provides customers a scalable user experience. Starting out with only features that customers require immediately, without inundating them with partially relevant features.
So, do not disregard these elements as you aspire towards a better user experience. It can be unfortunately easy to prize one discipline above another. User experience design is a non negotiable component of a successful product, but it is by no means the only one. You can always draw concepts and tools from one discipline and implement it in another. The idea is to balance all five pillars and build your business upon them.