“I help people do things more efficiently, create delightful experience for users and make profits for business.” — Sori Lee
Framing design as a way to drive business success can be a useful starting point. Ghislaine Guerin, a designer based near Madrid, Spain, talks to colleagues about how “good design makes for valuable products, leading to users that are engaged, happy and more likely to pay.” Sori echoes this, explaining to colleagues that “I help people do things more efficiently, create delightful experience for users and make profits for business.”
Another way to frame UX, especially in customer-focused organizations, is to talk about the benefits to the end user. For Bertrand, he tells colleagues that UX is about “putting yourself in the shoes of the user to satisfy their needs.” Michael Hodgkin, the web UX lead at the Australian Government Department of Human Services explains it to stakeholders like this, “If your users aren’t happy, you won’t be happy. You can’t make your users happy without understanding them. If you want to understand your user, design things they want, and understand if you’re succeeding, you need UX.”
Some people get even more specific and articulate the ways in which UX can help people complete tasks. For example, Tony tells stakeholders, “we are here to make users interaction with the app as minimum and effective as possible. So the user will complete the task (even if it’s just browsing) without a lot of thinking, rather using only muscle memory.” Andrea Photiou, based in Michigan, says the following to people in a work context, “My job is to design technology that makes our users’ journey from point A to point B as easy, and thoughtless as possible. It’s my job to put the thought into the design, so my users don’t have to. If the desired outcome of an interaction involves a user completing a purchase, it is my job to help guide the user there and eliminate any challenges or distractions in the process.” She also points out that there is a difference between ‘pushing a sale’ and helping a user to get what they need.
A further approach that emerged as a common theme was tailoring the message depending on who you are talking to. For Violet, how she explains UX really depends on who it is. “Sometimes it’s about communicating the value of spending time on discovery/research to avoid investing in the wrong decision (as development is so costly). It can also be about showing how UX is very aligned with the ‘customer-centric’ values of their mandate (e.g. Sales, Support, etc.). Either way, money talks.” This aligns with Kat’s approach in telling her colleagues that “we are here to ask ‘why’ our users are currently using our product. For the sales team, this translates into how to position and price the products. For the marketing team, it’s about how to appeal to their target demographic. And for the dev team, it means they can better understand what needs to be prioritized and developed. The meaning of why can change over time, we’re here to keep a pulse on our user behaviors so that as an organization we can be more agile.”
A word on articulating the value of UX
It’s one thing to explain what it is you do, and another to convince people of the value of design and UX. There has been a lot of attention on this topic over recent years, with conversation around ‘proving’ the ROI (return on investment) of UX, and increased focus on measurement. At the same time, there is a sense that it’s hard to simply convince people of the value. Jared Spool has even written an article about this; ‘Why I can’t convince executives to invest in UX (and neither can you).’
Several designers surveyed spoke to this as well, with the essence boiling down to ‘show don’t tell’ when it comes to the value of UX design. For Kat, “Explaining value hasn’t been as effective as showing it. After running a workshop with a local startup, it shifted their mindset. They began to understand the value of their product to their customers and how that can shift between different demographics.” Noah Fang, a service designer & business strategist echoed this sentiment, saying “I don’t think explaining the value would ever work if the listeners don’t already have the belief or haven’t experienced the process, or haven’t witnessed the results. The explanation mostly works after people saw the value by actually doing: once after a successful run, I got to explain what I did is part of the UX design expertise, and highlighted the critical moments in the process. That helped them understand the designerly way of doing by recalling those moments.”
Tangible examples can also be helpful. Ken mentions a time when “I had to explain to someone the value of UX for a business. I believe I did this effectively when I explained how Spotify increased their conversion rate by switching from a hamburger menu to a tab bar in their app based on the findings from their A/B Testing.” Gus Waller, a UX researcher and designer in Vancouver, Canada, shows people results from testing. “Photos, videos or quotes are a very easy way to communicate the value of UX to anyone sceptical or new to the discipline. For example, if you want proof that someone struggles to use your product, here’s a 30 second video of 12 different people struggling to log in.”
Finally, at World Interaction Design Day recently, one of my fellow panelists mentioned the Jared Spool $300 million dollar button example as a great one to keep in your back pocket when faced with the value of UX question.
A selection of analogies for explaining UX
When all else fails in explaining UX, try an analogy! They can be a great tool for explaining UX in any context. Here’s a collection of some great UX analogies that people shared.
- “Good UX is like insurance. It’s a sensible investment that increases the likelihood of a) building the right thing, and b) the thing being successful.” – Gus Waller, UX researcher and designer
- “Users want their needs satisfied, business want their needs satisfied. UX lubricates that friction.” – Michael Hodgkin, web UX lead