User experience has rapidly matured as a discipline and whilst many start-ups may have included UX / Design strategy as key part of the business agenda from the beginning, many have to approach this as part of a transformative programme and change, as we have all experienced, can be hard.
Here then are some of the main challenges I have experienced and some of the remedial or preventative actions that might pay dividends for you.
The ROI of good vs bad UX
For the business as a whole its important to frame the benefits of a well managed and user centric design strategy from a Return on Investment (ROI) point of view. ROI of design is difficult to evaluate but the following benefits are tangible advantages: Improved performance, consistent UI / UX, better use of resources, quicker builds, brand consistency, leaner and cleaner code and easier maintenance. Perhaps the most obvious is the market differentiation and user advocacy that comes with good UX.
Ah, my favourite flavour of technical debt. The results of even a brief UI audit will starkly bring the outcome of divergent, possibly siloed and organic software development into sharp focus and should be the first port-of-call in demonstrating an incoherent and inconsistent user experience. This variation on technical debt: design debt, will in turn result in user confusion as a result of being presented with different design patterns and slow development due to lack of common guiding standards, possibly even duplication of work across teams.
Buy-in for User Centric Design programme
Key to the agenda for any programme of change is buy-in, and not just from the top brass. Ideally one major stakeholder to champion the chosen design strategy and a small team to prove its implementation. When instigating a design system try recruiting one small dev team and one VP – soon the influence will spread and hopefully product managers and product dev teams will be quick to come on board.
Emphasis should be made that this is a long term investment, and that early groundwork – whilst lengthy, will pay off exponentially in the long run. ROI is there – but know that it is a commitment to a product (serving other products) – which needs constant maintenance in order to reap the benefits.
Design your process; then design your product
Established product teams and their processes will need to be taken into account, evolution is far easier than revolution. Propose a simple sprint ahead approach to begin with which, while it can’t always allow for every step you might like to include – prototyping rounds, multiple user research approaches for example, it can at least allow for the early green shoots of a user validated approach to appear – and in doing so become a catalyst for change.
Validation, and validation again
If you want value to emerge at the end of this process you need to prove the value at the beginning, and at several stages during the process. You might get push back – understandably, subject matter experts (who should of course be consulted) – might not like user based research countering their own opinions – a form of cognitive bias. Once the iterations garner better results, even at prototyping stages the improved product will allow the whole team to bask in the shared glory!
Almost certainly purse strings will need to be loosened for new communication, project documentation and design collaboration tooling. For some companies even a move to reclaim documentation lost in email inboxes will represent a major win.
Business’ place at the user centric table
Aligning business value with user value from the beginning is crucial. To have clear product mission, vision, strategy, roadmap and execution plans which everyone involved can use as guiding lights in their decision making will ensure either that the course is clear or that the need to pivot is equally obvious.
Assessing the appetite for change is crucial and some steps may be right in some circumstances and not others. Knowing when to push an agenda is often learned the hard way.
The players will change over time but if “Design is how a product works” then
Product design is a team game and ultimately everyone who has any input along the way will effect the outcome and could therefore be described as a product designer.
product design is a team game and ultimately everyone who has any input along the way will effect the outcome and could therefore be described as a product designer.