If you work at a product company, you can appreciate User Experience (UX). After all, if your product is doing well, it means that it is satisfying users somehow - which is what UX aims to do, right?
What’s often lost in a conversation about user experience is that it is more than a product-oriented function. In fact, it has the potential to be (and should seriously be considered) a working culture. One that centres user needs, and involves a wide variety of research, ideation, and problem-solving methodologies to fulfil them.
The choice to implement good UX is beyond your current product. It exists at every interaction you have with your customers.
In fact, you already know this. Take a look at your organisation’s mission statement. In some form, it probably aims to bring meaning to consumers’ lives through your existing product. Meaning is the highest level of user experience you can aim for.
UX breaks this mission down into its tangible aspects - tools and processes. User research and user personas, for example, can help you develop a deeper understanding of the people you want to serve.
It also helps you make the right decisions. When resources are limited, you have to make precise choices about where you want to use them. This is inherently involved in prototyping and usability testing. These processes ask you to come up with a model of a solution and test it on actual users before making anything final.
It helps you avoid bias, excess features you may not need and overall bad design.
While the connection between UX and product development may be straightforward, it can aid finance by measuring outcomes that affect business, boost sales by ensuring user needs are met, enhance marketing through a holistic understanding of customer experience and even communicate legal aspects without overwhelming users.
User experience is applicable everywhere.
And people are starting to notice. 86% of customers are willing to pay more for better customer experience (CX). In 2018, 81% of companies surveyed expected CX to be a key differentiating factor by 2020. And 62% are willing to invest in making this happen.
People clearly believe in UX. Organisations know the difference it can make and commit to providing it to the best of their abilities.
But how is that possible if user experience doesn’t get a seat at the executive table?
Currently, this function is treated as an after-thought. Added to the product development, engineering, or marketing departments, it is not given enough time or resources for its potential to be explored or implemented.
Perhaps employees don’t feel qualified, or these other departments have too much on their plates to look into the fair integration of UX, or it cannot be pulled apart from its sister function UI.
Either way, this way of working hurts an organisation.
Decisions are made on the basis of a strategy that does not prioritise user needs. For the role of UX to really come through, there must be an official who reports directly to the CEO of the organisation.
Wayne Neale envisions a structure where a UX Vice President reports to the CEO. A person with that seniority and power can then work with heads of the marketing, product development, R&D, and customer service departments to ensure a user-centric perspective in all processes. As he says, “Great user experiences don’t happen by accident or with a single UX person on a team. They require hard work from a multi-disciplinary team working across functional groups with a process and set of tools in the appropriate organizational structure.”
To start off with, establishing a long-term partnership with a user experience design agency or having a small team in-house is not a bad idea. What’s important though, is for the leaders of an organisation to be very intentional with this decision. They must believe in it and communicate this belief as clearly as they can to their employees.
Companies should also reconsider their attitudes towards customer interaction. It is very easy to get into a marketing mode and forget to listen. A feedback oriented approach, on the other hand, can draw insights that will enable product and company success in the long run. UX Maturity is a concept that measures the level of integration of UX into the company. From Inception (lack of UX) to Integrated (UX as a global strategy), it is a good scale against which to plot your own organisation.
As you get a hang of the UX process, take a moment to assess your own needs as an organisation. If you find yourself with the necessity of user experience integration, centre it in your journey towards success.