A few years ago I was involved in a challenging resource discussion. Back then, we had a hybrid model for user-centered design resources. The majority of the UI designers were embedded in the product teams and reported to the development manager. The rest of the usability folks were part of the central team. The development manager wanted to replace a UI designer that reported directly to him with a hardcore developer. He could not keep both roles. His budget did not leave any room or flexibility. I was fortunate to have the budget in my team, to bring the designer back to the corporate group. The interesting aspect of this anecdote is that the development manager wanted to have both resources but not pay for them. As the executive responsible for the corporate team, I could have told him that he “couldn’t have his cake and eat it too.” However, I did not want to burn any bridges and his product was of strategic importance to the organization at that time.
Depending on the organization and the level of UX maturity, UX professionals will have different degrees of success in budget planning cycles. Sometimes, they will be at the mercy of others when it comes to deciding staffing levels or money allocation while other times, they be directly involved in the process. This is probably more frustrating when UX is viewed as an operational function and not a pillar of strategic impact. Let’s take a look at a few things that you can do to tip the balance of power and increase the organization’s understanding of the value of UX.
User Experience has Business and Bottom-line Impact
Consider some these User Experience statistics from industry research:
- For each dollar spent to acquire a customer, it costs $100 or more to re-acquire if they leave due to poor usability or customer service
- More than 95% of customers use less than 10% of the features in applications.
- The #1 predictor of call center volume is application usability, at an average cost of $20 per call (this will vary per organization)
- Every $10 spent on solving user experience problems early in development will save about $100 in development
- Every $1 spent improving core interactions will return $50-$100 when executed in a rigorous manner
- Customers are more satisfied with a product that has a small number of highly usable features than with a feature rich product that is not usable.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) base percentage point variation could cost an organization about $150,000.
You should select the metrics that make sense for your organization, track them, and socialize them with your business partners and executives.
User Experience expectations are higher than ever before
The consumerization of information technology is driving end user expectations to a higher level. People expect the best experience with the applications they interact with, whether they are for personal or business use. The expectations of ease of use, integration and support for the way people behave or work, place stronger demands on product teams to deliver a product that meets the demands of the people that they are designing for.
You should make sure to concentrate in key areas to push, whether is product integration, task simplification or pushing for a simple, enjoyable consumer experience design in your products.
Integrating and Leveraging User Experience
Whether your organization is agile, waterfall, or somewhere in between, it is poised to leverage user experience methodologies and increase end-user participation throughout the product development life-cycle. Your team could learn from your users through observation and conversation (formal or informal interviews).
As a team, you get a realistic perspective of what “a day in their life” looks like. You may uncover new opportunities from mapping the user journey and understanding the context of their experience with your product. You will also be able to validate assumptions about your product and discard those that you disproof early on in the process. Your end-users will give you a unique perspective about their specific processes how they perform their tasks to accomplish specific goals in the context of their environment.
This collaboration provides insights into areas that your teams can leverage in the product design including:
- Which specific outcomes your product must support, helping you focus on what is important
- Identifying information architecture needs to support key processes
- Insights into designing product experiences to best support the users
- Opportunities to leverage the capabilities of the different platforms to improve, expand and enhance the experience
Improve your overall customer satisfaction
Throughout my career I have observed a constant theme from those people who participate in the product development process. For the most part, they all have positive views of the value of their input. They also experience first-hand the organization’s empathy in a way that they see a “company that cares” about them. They also consider this as a unique opportunity to directly contribute in the product design process.
Getting end users involved yields immediate benefits to the organization and the product teams. Some of these contributions include:
- Teams are able to validate the product design direction and immediately apply what they learn.
- You can identify “gaps” early in the product development process, avoiding costly rework.
- The team can adjust the priority or the themes during each development cycle based on what they learn from the users and the data collected in through the system.
Improving User Experience improves your organization’s profitability
Enhancements in user experience provide both direct and indirect contributions to the bottom line of your organization. Industry research and statistics provide irrefutable evidence that providing a rich user experience greatly reduces your operational costs, increases resource efficiency across the board and fosters strong loyalty and support from your clients.
In today’s digital world, word of mouth about bad experiences with products spreads exponentially. Can your organization afford this risk? Or does it have the leadership and processes in place to support designing new and innovative products partnering with end-users throughout the process?
This article was first published in LinkedIn with the title “To partner or not with end users in product development”
Image: PD Wikimedia Commons