UX is too important to be left to UX designers
UX only works when everyone in your team is onboard, writes Phil Herborn. Here’s how to rethink your job description with best practice UX in mind.
There’s a problem with how user experience (UX) is being approached, and it comes down to this: it shouldn’t be left to UX designers alone. It’s everyone’s responsibility.
In any business or marketing solution, you will always be presented with lots of practical problems or challenges and generally you are trying to navigate politics, technology and business process legacies to improve the business you are in.
These however are only distractions. Your only concern should be finding ways to exceed the base level of expectations for your products and services and finding X-factor moments for your customers. If we don’t do that then we leave our market wide open to challenger brands.
In short, you need exceptional UX.
If you’ve only got individual UX people fighting the fight for UX, then you’ve got a problem.
Group theory would have it that when the majority wants to charge in one direction, it’s very hard for a minority voice to sway the group.
Compounding this, UX people are often put in a bad spot – back of house spaghetti systems, less than ideal budgets and time, a team just slogging it out trying to get it done, business owners not ‘owning it’ and so on. Lots of competing issues are working against an ideal UX solution.
UXers shouldn’t have to face these problems alone. A problem shared is a problem halved.
Organisations need to think of UX as a company culture, not a job title or role to fill.
While there’s nothing wrong with people carrying UX in their title, they need to be considered the practice leads and cultural ambassadors not the only ones responsible for UX.
What can you do?
1. Create a culture of UX within your organisation
This might sound like a big change to orchestrate, but just start with fostering deeper levels of customer empathy and you’re well on your way. Spend time talking to customers, listen in to support calls and poster the kitchen with customer quotes and insights.
Get the business into the habit of framing business problems through the lens of your customers. What do they think about problem ‘X’? How does it impact them? What would it look like if it were 10 times easier for the customer? How would you surprise and delight the customer and what’s unexpected but useful to them?.
I also recommend sending everyone along to UX conferences or meet-up nights, as well as creating an all-of-team or business ‘great UX’ mailing list for sharing ideas and best practice examples.
2. Rethink your job description
- UX practitioners: You’re now the UX coach and mentor. You’ve got the toolbox of techniques and it’s your role to help the team own the ideology of UX. As they say ‘teach to master’.
- Business people: Create a clear UX vision for your unit or projects. Join the dots within your organisation that need to be joined, in order to smooth out or deliver the new customer experience.
- Procurement: Look for UX teams, not UX people. Pay up front for good UX, knowing that it will save you money down the line. Support UX led engagements and contract in some flexibility to iterate, as there’s no such thing as a final version.
- Designers and creatives: Never stop looking for ideas and design solutions that improve the experience, beyond just meeting user expectations. You need to help the team find the x-factor, that joyful interaction moment or that killer new feature or entirely new product idea. Avoid the colouring in of wireframes at all costs!
- Programmers: I don’t know a programmer that wakes up in the morning and says “I want to make a terrible product” but I do know programmers that need help getting inside the minds of customers less technically savvy than themselves. Spend more time with customers to see how they struggle with the basics then it will be easier to code for UX rather than just completing tasks in hand.
- Project managers: As project leaders you need to evangelise UX and ensure the team has a shared UX vision. Start your projects with a process of developing deep customer empathy, then throughout the project nudge the topic asking customer centric questions of the team. You’ll know you’re winning when the entire team is constantly considering project problems from the customers’ perspective.
UX really is a team sport. When an entire organisation gets behind UX, owns it and executes it together, they create the X-factor that produces market leading brands. Your customers will love you and, in turn, your business will thrive.
Phil Herborn is strategy director at Webling Interactive.