Whatever the organisation’s relationship with UX, the goal should be the same: to make a product or experience that solves a problem for a user and delights them in the process of solving it.

But what about building a business case for UX? Why invest in UX? Why and where is UX important? How do you win buy-in?

This briefing is taken from Econsultancy’s User Experience and Interaction Design Best Practice Guide, which is aimed at those who already understand the basics of UX but are looking to move beyond the theory. It is for those who are looking to gain practical knowledge on the key aspects of UX in product as well as organisational design.

Head to the report, written by UI/UX expert Will Grant and digital entrepreneur and speaker Steffan Aquarone, if you want to focus on the knowledge required by marketers and ecommerce practitioners responsible for the practical application of UX into commercial, website and communications projects.

First, a definition

User experience (UX) is a discipline where designers aim to improve all aspects of an end user’s interaction with a product or service. UX encompasses many other disciplines, including human-computer interaction, interaction design, visual design, process management and information architecture.

UX can span a range of departments within a company, far beyond the developers implementing user interface (UI) designs, or the marketer writing copy for an email campaign. Many, including the experts interviewed for Econsultancy’s report, comment that UX is more of a guiding principle.

However, due to heavy workloads, time pressures and performance metrics, the focus is often restricted to short-term commercial success rather than longer-term customer experience metrics, and UX can end up feeling like an accessory to the current process.

A successful UX approach can help increase conversion and support other business goals, both strategic and commercial. The key to an effective UX execution is rooted in psychology: How can organisations make people engage with their products and services and make it easy for users to achieve their goals?

The extent to which organisations can create a high-quality UX will vary wildly from organisation to organisation. There may be a UX specialist team that provides best practice guidance and standards for executing campaigns, or it could be that UX is seen as everyone’s responsibility and appears at every juncture, from a call centre welcome script to the experience the customer receives unboxing a hardware product.

In some organisations – such as those that have a mature understanding of UX as a discipline that goes beyond purely interaction design – work will often involve building empathy with customers and finding solutions to their problems: employing curiosity, iterating and testing rapidly. The challenge is getting users, making them happy and learning from them.

Whatever the organisation’s relationship with UX, the goal should be the same: to make a product or experience that solves a problem for a user and delights them in the process of solving it.

The Business Case

What is good for customers and users is good for business

“Putting the customers first has better outcomes for the business than putting the business wants first.” – James Longstaff, Digital and Product Owner, Scope

Why invest in UX?

“We don’t invest in improving the user experience because we’re lovely people, because if we were, we’d just give them what they want for free! We improve UX to increase conversion, and to increase lifetime value.” – Paul Boag, Customer Experience Consultant

Protecting the business against new entrants

UX is not a quick fix

“I think a lot of companies see UX as a quick fix. It’s possible that no amount of work on the UX side of things can fix a fundamentally broken product, service or business process. It’s like putting a bandage on a gunshot wound without removing the bullet.”

Rauf Fadzillah, Creator of Palindrome

The principles of good user experience need to be applied across organisations as well as within products. Great UX professionals will be able to support this. The hard truth is that a vast number of large organisations, no matter how established or how much has been invested, have failed to put the customer at the heart of the business. They design the experience around the business, not the customer. In some cases, such as with Blockbuster, this could be argued to have cost the entire business.

Digital technology has enabled people to find and transfer to providers that they think do a better job quickly and easily. This switch can sometimes take place faster than the length of a corporate strategy cycle, which is forcing companies to change their ways of working.

This challenge is summarised by Martec’s Law: the idea that the technology that is driving changes in customer expectations and interactions evolves very rapidly (as captured in Moore’s Law), but that organisations are slow to change. This creates a widening gap that leaves room for new entrants that do not suffer from the challenges of incumbency, and which can adopt new technologies and a customer-focused (or some might say user-obsessed) approach from the outset.

Add in a ‘cataclysmic event’, such as a global pandemic or economic downturn, and these new entrants will be even more likely to gain market share as a sudden shift in consumer behaviour occurs.

Figure 1: Martech’s LawGraph showing technological and organizational change over timeSource: Chiefmartec.com (reproduced with permission)

Winning the battle with new entrants is not just about having the best product: it is about designing the best experience for customers right across their relationship with the organisation.

Improving commercial performance

While in today’s competitive landscape, maintaining market share might be motivation enough, UX can also make an impact on short- and medium-term performance.

Many of the techniques outlined in Econsultancy’s User Experience and Interaction Design Best Practice Guide can be applied specifically to the ‘moments of truth’ in a business that are responsible for day-to-day commercial success: changes to the buying process that reduce steps and increase conversion, changes to individual assets or objects in user interfaces that improve clickthrough or purchase rates, or tweaks to site journeys that reduce abandonment.

Short-term commercial appetite and longer-term customer experience are not mutually exclusive applications of UX. But if all the business focuses on is improving conversion to drive funnel velocity, then it is missing out on other potential gains.

The same approaches that can help to build a better product page can provide a framework for re-engineering other parts of the organisation. This includes:

UX needs to be at the core of the business

“The problem with training a company of scale on UX is that you may tell one department, and you train them, and then you turn around to do the same with another department and the first lot have gone off, got too busy and forgotten everything. That’s why it needs to be at the core of the business, baked into the very heart.”

Jon Warden, Head of User Experience and Design, GlaxoSmithKline, Global Pharma

Improving the user experience of communications

Effective communication is the holy grail of modern marketing, and writing words that matter can make the difference between money wasted and scarce resources well spent.

If communication is occurring, then, somewhere, money is being spent. And every instance of communication with a customer or prospective customer is an opportunity to improve on the customer experience, present or reinforce the brand promise, and meet customer needs.

Simple UX principles can be applied to communications to improve the customer experience. Start by asking the following questions:

There are a wide range of communications that could be improved by asking these questions; not just advertising copy and positioning statements, but buying guides, instruction manuals, help and support materials, call centre scripts (including digital customer service channels), email and CRM communications, including system-generated messages. Remember, ‘bothism’ means achieving both what the customer needs and what the business wants  – and there may be areas where communications, especially system-generated communications, could be optimised to tell a stronger brand story.

Applying the fundamentals of a UX-led approach to communications starts with data and continues with ongoing testing: using data sources or insights to inform decisions, making well-researched choices into the style, tone, content and purpose of communications, and aligning them to customer needs.

How to win buy-in

Management is starting to understand the benefits of UX in an organisation, but there is still some way to go. If design proposals can be aligned to business goals and strategy can be articulated in relatable terms, making the case to senior leaders should be much easier.

The key to getting buy-in is to present the strategy on management’s terms. Be realistic about how anything big will carry risks and could fail. Senior leaders know this and are happiest with risk when they can quantify it, so it helps to talk in terms that describe both the size of the opportunity and the cost of inaction. Other recommendations include:

For much more on building UX teams and understanding, diagnosing and measuring UX, go to Econsultancy’s User Experience and Interaction Design Best Practice Guide.

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