UX has become a buzz word in recent times. But if we take a look at the basics of UX practice it becomes clear that it is more than just a term. UX is a practice that needs to be part of every customer facing department in a company.
This is not because it sells a product or service better than the sales department, not because it makes an object more appealing than the product design department, and not because it gives a USP that no marketing department could identify; UX can ensure that you create a product or service that your customer wants. So what is the business case for UX?
Building a Business Case for UX
If we take a look at the basic principles of UX it is easy to identify the pros to using the practice in all client facing departments. Peter Morville defines these as:
- Useful: Build what your customer wants, not what you and your manager think they want
- Usable: Ensure people can use your product or service
- Desirable: Emotional design goes further than any other. Create something that derives empathy from the User
- Findable: Build an interface that is easy to navigate around. Don’t let people get lost trying to find their way around
- Accessible: Ensure even the smallest minority groups can access your product / service in an easy way. Those who are not tech savvy should be able to access your offering without much help
- Credible: Develop trust with your client base. Find out what encompasses trust for them and create it
- Valuable: Define the value of your product / service with your customer base so they know what they are receiving from you.
What is evident from the above points is that UX is all about the customer, not just about the business goals. In any given company, there will be 99% of the workforce occupied with achieving the business’s goals; but who is succeeding in achieving the customer’s goals? Who asks the customer if they want the added features or the new models? Without a direct line with your customer you cannot say for sure that your business’s goals are that of the customer. And without the interest of customers, you have no business.
So how does UX satisfy this problem?
UX satisfies the above problem by allowing the customer to have a voice in the company. User Research is at the foundation of UX. Research your customer base. Where do they spend their time, what demographic are they, what issues do they experience regularly, how does your company factor into their lives? Whether your company sells basic amenities or luxury items, customers must want or need it for them to choose to invest in it.
Once User Research is done, the next step is to identify the solution and to validate it through User Interviews and stakeholder meetings. Directors, designers, marketers, etc. should all be involved in deciding a solution to a problem and Users should be involved in validating them.
Create paper prototypes or working models, and ask your core demographic to have their say on them. Could this basic idea for a product be of value to them? Does it offer enough for them to want to have it? Can they use it or do they rely on your company to train them and hold their hand in the breaking in stage?
After each iteration and the development stage User validation should take place. User Interviews, Usability Tests and product walk-throughs can give you invaluable knowledge of how your product will perform once it goes to market. Take the time to invite your customers to be part of the process and listen to their feedback. Asking questions like ‘what are the pain points?’ and ‘what improvement can be made?’ ensures that you discuss the negatives as well as the positives.
After everything has been shipped it is then up to the sales, marketing and customer care departments to make sure customers find the product, buy it and get satisfaction after sales service for issues that may arise. UX still plays a big part here as User Research will allow sales and marketing to know where the customers can be found, who customers are more likely to be and which customers need more persuasion than others. Customer care departments need UX to determine possible frequently asked questions and the level of knowledge the customer has before contacting the company.
Overall including the User in every part of a product production journey will ensure that what you are offering is what the User wants and not that the company thinks the User wants.
This is all great but what are the cons of UX?
UX is brilliant at identifying what pain points customers have and the possible solutions but UX does not implicitly give the best possible solution. In the famous words of Steve Jobs ‘customers don’t know what they want’. Teams need to brainstorm possible solutions and decide the best option amongst themselves. There is no guarantee that the solution is the right one and there is no way to know for definite until it goes to market and its performance is measured.
UX also does not ensure that a product will be successful even if it is what the customer wants. Branding and marketing are invaluable to a company at the launch stage of a new product to guarantee that a product gets enough awareness in the marketplace. UX cannot promise sales but it can inform the right departments at the right time.
One final note
UX involves customers at the heart of the product development process and all through the deployment stages. Having a loyal fanbase that wants to test your new products and are happy to give honest feedback is more valuable sometimes than advertising.
This process can lead to brand advocacy whereby loyal customers promote your company to their networks, which ends in more sales overall. This happens later in a company’s lifecycle once a trusting relationship has built up, but this technique of brand advocacy is not limited to the likes of Google and Apple. Having a content strategy that keeps your ux findings at it’s core can ensure that this happens sooner rather than later for your business.