The Case for UX
User Experience Design (UX) is far from being the new kid on the block. We see and experience various aspects of usability in the everyday environment and products we use, from consumer products, to airport wayfinders, to store checkout areas. But, in recent years, UX has developed into a recognized industry buzzword, so it’s no wonder that organizations talk of it, know of it or want to learn about it … so then, what’s the hang up? I list a few common reasons why organizations choose to opt out of user research as well provide conversation starters to encourage the buy-in:
Not Enough Time
There’s no shame in scaling down. Some research is always better than none at all. The time in getting to the physical product launch isn’t quite as important as the time after the launch when the product becomes available for public consumption because users ultimately determine a product’s success or demise.
No Room in the Budget
This is often the case, unfortunately. The fact of the matter is, the upfront cost of conducting research to discover user challenges at the start of a project is substantially lower than to learn of usability issues after the product launches. Ideas, strategies, and wireframes are very much malleable during the research phase. Thus, usability issues found after the site launch involves considerable effort from not only UX personnel, but also both visual design and development teams. As a result, project costs inevitably increase, not to mention time, to fix or worst yet redesign the product. Also, something to consider is that by this time, user trust/loyalty is compromised to some degree.
Tip: I will preface this suggestion by stating that it is not an ideal scenario, but if budget is tight and the client is willing, clients can help perform some of the research by doing a portion themselves. For instance, user questionnaire or persona templates can be created for clients to use when conducting interviews and review findings themselves. This can both be an eye-opening (sometimes fun) experience for the clients, especially as they gather unexpected responses.
Client vs. User
Clients can provide key insight and bring common issues to the surface as they have intimate domain knowledge. However, users’ interests and clients’ goals may not match, and although clients represent a subset of the user base, they are usually not the common denominator. This is especially true when considering how future users may use the product, so UX designers are there to identify and fill in all the gaps of user challenges and satisfaction as it relates to how best to design the product.
Aren’t You the Expert?
Yes and no. While we are experts of our craft, and our job is to learn about users’ needs and translate those discoveries into actionable designs, we don’t have expertise across all domains. Moreover, while we apply industry best practices and acquire patterns of knowledge through experience, it’s important to note that often times, we are not the users of the product. Hence, acquiring knowledge on user behavior, needs, and desires are critical to our role to ensure success of the product.
The Silver Bullet
User experience design doesn’t just project a heroic voice for users. It keeps organizations relevant, alert, and responsive to make products and services users need and want to use. Thus, the more an organization knows about its users, the more competitive edge they have over the competition.