In our recent UX industry survey, we noticed a strong desire to understand how to make a compelling business case for increasing your company’s focus on user experience as a means for hitting your goals. I was delighted about this! It means you guys are focused on the absolute right thing: delivering tangible value through intentional design, not just making things pretty and calling it a day.
At the same time, this is a sign that there are still companies where the benefit of a meaningfully-designed user experience is either not seen as impactful to the business by decision-makers, or UX is just not on the radar as a priority. And you know, I get it, things move fast in our line of work, and it can often be tempting to sideline the intense effort involved in crafting good UX in favor of shipping earlier/coming in under budget/MVP’ing harder(?), etc. – but at what cost?
We’re UX uber-geeks around here, so we get sweaty and anxious thinking about that kind of mass lost opportunity for design in general. In addition in 2016, we’ll have been advocating for better UX for 15 years, so we’ve heard our fair share of excuses to cut corners with the user experience. I thought it’d be helpful for us to share the most common objections we hear to investing in better UX, and our responses to them. By the time you’re done with this post, you’ll have everything you need to state a compelling case for why your company should be devoting more time, effort and resources to improving their customers’ and users’ experiences.
Remember: Persuasion starts with empathy
“Empathy? Blegh!” Not into the touchy-feely stuff? Skip right to the common objections.
Some of you have the luck of the leprechauns coursing through your veins, and will find that the decision-makers you’re attempting to sway hadn’t even considered the possibility that their business’ user experience could be improved and have absolutely no qualms in investing in it more. You get to walk away a big damn hero to everyone just for speaking up in the first place, (congratulations).
For the rest of us luckless souls, we’re going to need to flex our empathy in order to present a compelling case. That means we’ll need to think real hard about the answers to the following questions:
…Oh, well actually, kinda:
Who are you trying to persuade?
You’ve got to take into account who the decision-maker is. A CEO typically sees things differently from a Project Manager, who in turn thinks differently from a Database Engineer – the ideal language you use and benefits you emphasize will vary greatly depending on who’s listening. For instance, here’s an (admittedly horribly stereotypical) example of what people in each of these three roles might think in reaction to the same design recommendation:
You (the Designer): “We should redesign the homepage”
“How will this increase sales volume?”
“How long is this going to take?”
“This doesn’t involve me. Also, I want a sandwich.”
Notice that no-one in the trio above is thinking to themselves “Agreed, we shouldn’t be using Comic Sans, and the photography looks like $5 stock”, as your fellow designers might. This isn’t to say that all folks in these roles are myopically unable to think of benefits outside of their immediate roles – just that you stand a much better chance of swaying minds to your cause if you’re able to connect the benefits of better UX with the specific, role-based needs at the forefront of each decision-maker’s mind.
What do they want?
Knowing what each decision-maker wants gives you your bullseye to aim at – you have to illuminate the path between investing in UX, and achieving what your decision-makers want. There may not be a direct connection, but the benefits experienced in one area of the company may have a good knock-on effect on others that are relevant to them.
“You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” ~Zig Ziglar
Helping decision-makers understand how a better user experience can move the things they care about to a better place is a powerful way of getting your advocacy heard and seriously considered.
Why do they think improving UX will make what they want harder to get?
Of the three questions, this one is probably the best at revealing the hurdles in your company that are blocking an investment in user experience. Your mission is to overcome any of these objections by deeply understanding the answers to the first two questions above.
If you’re encountering conscious resistance to greater emphasis on UX at your company, it can really be boiled down to three root causes: Scarcity, Skepticism and Indifference
Scarcity of resources, like time, manpower and budget, forces decision-makers to make trade-offs every day. You can take a number of approaches to address scarcity-based arguments:
- Illustrate how improving UX doesn’t necessarily require as many resources as they might expect
- Demonstrate how investing in UX now could free up more of their favored resources later
- Explain how a focus on UX can actually generate more of their favored resource moving forward
Skepticism of the potential benefits of improved UX is a trickier one to tackle, but is still manageable:
- Show the results of relevant UX research (the Nielsen-Norman Group is an amazing resource for this kind of stuff, as is WhichTestWon)
- Point to the results of competitors’ forays into improving their user experience (if our survey showed anything, it’s that even if you’re ignoring UX, your competition likely isn’t)
- Work to understand why a bad outcome with previous UX work may have occurred, and clearly explain your plan to mitigate those risks this time around
- Stick your neck out, take initiative, and show the results of a test you’ve already run yourself (hey, sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness, right?)
Finally, indifference is usually because the person doesn’t understand how UX can affect the things they care about or are responsible for (remember, “I want a sandwich”). Tackle indifference by showing how the knock-on effects of better UX can make their lives easier. Updating your app’s search function with a pleasant loading animation may initially sound like useless designer fluff to your Database Engineer, but what if it eliminates duplicate clicks by users, thereby reducing the overall query volume & load placed on your servers and increasing site-wide performance as a bonus?
Alright, now that we’ve walked a textual mile in our coworkers’ shoes, let’s take an empathy check: how’re we feeling, good to keep going? Anyone need a trust-fall break? No? Then let’s peruse the rogues’ gallery of our opponents in this epic fight…
Common arguments against better UX – and how we answer them
“There’s not enough time”
Hugely beneficial user & A/B tests can be implemented so quickly – your company could significantly benefit from tweaks as simple as changing the position and labelling of an important CTA button, or experimenting with text font & legibility. What if you doubled conversion on your “Buy Now” button?
It seems like not a day goes by without a new UX testing tool popping up on my radar, all aiming to facilitate quicker and easier tests and collecting actionable design feedback from your users. Tools like UserTesting.com can enable you to expose willing guinea-pigs to your latest creations and collect recorded, in-the-wild video footage in less than a day.
In addition, with enough traffic, a solid A/B test takes just a few days for obvious opportunities for improvement to make themselves known, and testing suites like Optimizely, can have you up and running with tests in under a couple hours. Invision and Axure make rapid prototyping and collaboration way better than the traditional “39-message-email-chain-with-attachments” process that collaborative design used to involve (let us never speak of those dark days again).
Committing to better UX doesn’t always have to take much time, and has so much potential to yield order-of-magnitude better results.
“UX doesn’t affect the bottom line”
Ok, as designers, I can guess what your initial gut reaction will be when someone says this:
Calm yourself, take a breath. Using the mechanics of most e-commerce businesses as an example, let’s do a quick thought experiment – after all, Einstein did them, and he was a damn smart guy (and we’re still only catching up to him, apparently). Most e-commerce businesses follow the same formula:
Traffic * Conversion Rate * Avg. Order Value (AOV) = Revenue
UX directly and significantly influences both Conversion Rate and AOV in an e-commerce setting. In particular, Conversion Rate tends to be a very small number (anywhere from ~0.2% to ~2% in my experience), so even small improvements there can yield dramatic revenue growth that compounds on itself over time.
Let’s say you’re getting 100k page views/mo to your site that sells…I dunno, inflatable plastic sharks (just go with me on this). A conversion rate increase from 0.2% to 0.3% at $99 AOV yields an additional $9,900 per month in sales revenue – ahem, that’s a 50% increase in monthly revenue and a whole lot more plastic sharks sold!
Ok, that was pretty theoretical – need real-world proof? Airbnb is currently valued at $25.5bn, but prior to 2011, they were in real danger of going bankrupt. The inflection point in their meteoric rise is largely credited to the realization that showing professional-quality photographs of rooms to their users significantly increased their likelihood of booking. The turning point in their growth story occurred at the same time they hired a team of 20 photographers to get shots of all their listings. Coincidence?
Another fave experiment concerns our friends over at Teehan+Lax who dumped $50,000 into the “UX Fund” back in 2006 – a hand-picked collection of stocks of companies that, among other criteria, “Demonstrate care in the design of their products and Web site“. Within a year, the fund was up 39.3%, and generated an eye-popping 101.8% ROI in under 5 years, even managing to weather one of the biggest market downturns since the Great Depression.
Better UX doesn’t just increase revenue – it can be highly effective in reducing costs, too. Let’s say you’re a designer working on a software product, and 20% of the inbound support inquiries are asking about where to find the Export button. You approach your product lead, and they’re hesitant to address this UX issue, because “budget is tight right now”. In any web-based app of even moderate complexity, customer support is typically one of the biggest ongoing operating costs they pay. If a couple hours of design-based tweaking could completely eliminate 1-in-5 of all inbound support tickets, it’s probably worth prioritizing, purely from the cost savings standpoint alone!
“Perceptions of usability explain around 1/3 of the changes in customer loyalty.” ~MeasuringU.com (source)
Speaking of cost-cutting, better UX enhances customer loyalty, too — and we all know it’s way cheaper (and generally just a nice thing to do) to keep a happy customer happy, than to go find another new one.
By increasing the rate at which you’re acquiring new customers, and retaining more of them over time, you’re positioning your business for meaningful growth – it’s as if you’re collecting water with a bucket, and then through better UX, magically expanded the bucket, oh and stemmed that pesky leak in the bottom too. Your voodoo magic design bucket overfloweth!
“Security comes first”
While I don’t disagree, this statement assumes that user security and UX are locked in a zero-sum game, with benefits to one coming only at the expense of the other.
No. Bad. Wrong. This is a false choice!
Intentionally-designed UX can actually enhance users’ security in a bunch of ways – whether it’s encouraging them to create more secure account passwords, or preventing them from visiting malicious websites. We’ve written about the UX vs Security conundrum before, but it really boils down to shaping the user experience to incentivize more secure behavior on their part.
“All our competitors do it this way”
Ah, you might be working at one of the 45% of companies we surveyed recently that indicated they’re running neck & neck with the competition when it comes to UX. You know, we also found out that 73% of those companies are going to invest in better UX this year.
Don’t get left behind! UX can be leveraged as a critical strategic advantage that can propel the growth of your business ahead of the competition.
In summary: help me help you
Advocating for greater UX focus in your organization most likely won’t change things overnight – it’s going to take persistence and a willingness to push the conversation forward with anyone that’ll listen. But in addition, it’s going to require a clear grasp of the role that the customer/user experience plays in the function of your whole company.
By enabling yourself to clearly articulate the benefits increased investment in UX can bring to virtually any area of a business, you’ll be well-positioned to clear the obstacles that prevent it from being prioritized as an area of focus. Not only that, you’ll be priming your company for significant, sustained growth, and you’ll be doing us all a big favor too.
And if it doesn’t work…?
What if you do all of this, and they still won’t listen? Well, maybe you should seek work at a company that values the impact of design on life’s experiences… 😉
This post is just the start of a whole new approach for us, that entails sharing our accumulated learnings from the last 15 years in user experience design. Help us learn what you’d like to know by taking our UX industry survey, and you’ll get access to an exclusive live webinar with DT’s Founder & CEO, Chuck Longanecker, on how we use an iterative design engine at Digital Telepathy to create award-winning experiences: