Why Don’t More Design and Development Teams Practice User Experience Design?
First, what is user experience design?
User experience design (UXD or just UX) is a process of creating digital products that revolves around constantly validating assumptions. Assumptions—or hypotheses—could be as broad as “this digital product solves a critical need for this type of customer” or as specific as “potential customers who visit our marketing page can immediately figure out what we do and what we offer.” UX is often confused with UI (user interface), which is the visual design of the digital product—how the product looks. Instead, user experience design is the process that informs the outcome (the UI).
While the user experience (UX) design process involves a variety of research methods, it always involves the end user. If the design team is not directly communicating with the end user as part of creating a digital product, they are not truly practicing user experience design.
So, why don’t teams practice UX?
I’ve talked to hundreds of agencies and product teams and only a handful incorporated a process that involved interacting with the people who would actually use their digital product or website.
When I asked why they didn’t, I was given one or both of these answers:
- We don’t have time.
- We don’t have the budget.
But, after digging deeper, this simply wasn’t true. These were projects with sizable budgets and, if UX was incorporated at the beginning of the project (as opposed to an afterthought), it would have easily fit into the project timeline.
Based on my conversations, I believe teams don’t involve the end user in the design process for the following reasons:
- It’s not a part of their existing process. “We’ve always done it this way, so why change it now?” And if one person advocates for UX, they are overruled by the majority.
- They assume their solution is the right solution and that they know better than the end user. There are no assumptions to validate when you know best.
- Hearing negative feedback about your design is hard. Opening yourself up to criticism—even constructive criticism—is tough when you pour yourself into the design and development of a digital product.
Why is this a problem?
The purpose of incorporating UX into the design process is to minimize risk and maximize opportunity—things your boss or clients are incredibly worried about. Why would you rely on intuition alone when there is a proven process at your disposal? The user experience design process:
Minimizes risk by preventing:
- A wasted investment building a digital product no one wants to buy or use.
- Expensive last-minute design and development changes, after you realize that no one wants to buy or use the product.
- A product bloated with useless features.
Maximizes opportunity by ensuring:
- Your customers can accomplish what they set out to accomplish, while still aligning with business goals. This means you create happier customers and prospects who appreciate your brand, services, and products—all while keeping your boss or clients happy.
- Your team identifies and acts on untapped opportunities in the marketplace.
- Your digital experience serves your clients better than your competitors.
Digital products (including websites, software, apps, and emerging technologies) are becoming increasingly complex. Intuition and a half-baked process are not going to help your boss or clients achieve their business goals. In fact, it puts the business in jeopardy. Why? Because you haven’t aligned business goals with user/customer goals. And that requires involving the user in the design process.
The solution to this problem involves a mindset change.
- A digital product is a proposed solution to a business objective. The desired outcome is not the digital product—it’s achieving the business goals. If those business goals align with user goals, you’ve dramatically increased your chances of achieving business objectives.
- Treat your designs as experiments. The end user is the expert, not the designer or developer.
- Involve representative users as early in the design process as you can. A few are better than none. Your assumptions will be invalidated often enough for you to move towards a better solution.
Easier said than done, of course. But this change in mindset can reduce the astronomical amount of waste associated with building digital products that people don’t want, can’t use effectively, and that fail to achieve business goals.