We’ve been running the DT Blog for close to 9 years now (a far cry from our first humble posts on Blogger back in the day), and we’ve always had a yearning to understand how we can take it to the next level, and provide more value to you guys with each post. One thing we’ve learned throughout our experience in UX is that the “how” part of that understanding actually resides with you, our readers.

That’s why, a couple weeks ago, we sent out our first ever survey. We wanted to know more about you – what you do, what you’re having difficulties with and which topics you want to learn more about in UX – so we can better tailor our content to your needs in 2016. Oh, and share awesome free stuff that you actually want (more on that later). 😉

What we’ve learned has blown our minds–so much so, that in reviewing the results, we simply looked at each other and decided:

“We should share these with everybody!”

So in this post, I’m going to share the most surprising and valuable takeaways from our grand experiment. I’ll then wrap up with a quick summary of what kinds of content you can look forward to from the DT Blog moving forward, whether you’re a designer, are searching for the perfect design partner to help you hit your goals, or you’re part of a design agency yourself & want to up your UX game this year.

So strap in, because we’re about to science the sh*t out of this survey…

Methodology

(Not a data nerd? No worries, you can jump straight to the juicy stuff, guilt-free!) Skip to the highlights »

1920's man looking at a stock ticker tape

For those of you sticking around, here’s some background on how we went about conducting this survey:

Highlights

1 in 5 of our readers is a CEO/Founder – design is getting more representation at the strategic decision-making level than ever before.
[Read the findings]


The #1 question we’ve heard from both marketing AND product pros is “how to develop effective strategies for customer success” – we find there’s a growing overlap of interest in UX between what are often two competing camps in many organizations.
[Read the findings]


91% of everyone surveyed felt like their websites don’t adequately communicate what’s awesome about their companies. Go ahead and read that number again: Ninety-freakin’-one percent. Good UX and tight messaging alignment is now pretty much a prerequisite for staying competitive.
[Read the findings]


Although 73% of you plan to invest in better UX this year, most aren’t quite sure where to start. It all begins with how you approach the research.
[Read the findings]


25% of all the designers we surveyed specifically asked for help & resources to prove the business case for better design and UX to upper management or clients. We hear you, and the cavalry is coming.
[Read the findings]

Survey Findings

Design gains recognition at the strategic level

The potential of design and UX as a strategic differentiator is bending the ears in more boardrooms than ever.

The potential of design and UX as a strategic differentiator is bending the ears in more boardrooms than ever.

44% of you are designers in some capacity – ok, not exactly a huge surprise there, but it turns out a surprisingly large portion of our audience (that’s you) are CEOs/Founders:

21% of our respondents are CEO’s/Founders.

This is only good news – with more design advocates showing upper management the benefits of even rudimentary approaches to improving UX, and more decision-makers seeking a competitive edge from innovative design solutions, there are huge opportunities awaiting both groups when they meet in the middle. Here’s how the rest of you guys’ roles broke down:

survey_roles_results

 

The fact that we have such diversity in our audience tells me that UX is being taken seriously throughout forward-thinking organizations, and that it now has a seat at the decision-making table. If you’re a designer trying to persuade upper management to pay more attention to the benefits of good design, take heart: you have a solid (and growing!) chance of meeting a receptive ear at the top, and we have plans to arm you with everything you need (more on this below) – so don’t give up!

Marketing + Product = <3

Enemies no more - Marketing and Product have way more to gain from closely collaborating on the entire customer experience.

Enemies no more – Marketing and Product have way more to gain from close collaboration on the entire customer experience.

Marketing & product pros made up roughly even factions of our audience, at 8% & 7% respectively, but we found diverging opinions between the two camps on the emphasis and importance placed on UX efforts in your organizations.

72% of marketers surveyed felt their website could do a better job of communicating their companies’ strengths.
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When asked whether your website needed more cowbell (yep that’s how we worded the actual question–because our surveys are fun, dammit), a whopping 72% of marketers felt their website could do a better job communicating their company’s strengths, compared to only 39.1% of product managers.

This is a huge disparity, given that the marketing website usually sets the customer’s expectations as to the value they’ll get before trying, and hopefully buying, a product or service. But you product pros appear to be typically more empowered to invest effort and resources in improved UX than your marketing counterparts – 28% of marketers said investing in UX isn’t their call to make, compared with only 13% of product managers.

The #1 request we heard from both marketing AND product pros is “how to develop effective strategies for customer success”.

Where the disciplines converge is equally revealing, however – both groups’ #1 request from us was to learn how to develop effective UX strategies for customer success. So it would appear the time has come for some much-needed unitah in tha communitah. One of my favorite things about working at Digital Telepathy is that we’re all encouraged to invite interesting folks to have lunch with us at our office, twice a week. It’s a much better way to build relationships than furiously hurling business cards like shuriken at staid conferences, and after all, everyone’s gotta eat. Marketers, product people, invite each other out to lunch, and be amazed!

Eric Cartman South Park respect my authoritah
By joining forces and collaborating closely especially on messaging, marketers AND product folks can seize amazing opportunities to design compelling, seamless and effective end-to-end customer experiences for their businesses. Get it right, and we’ll all bow down to your combined authoritah. 😉

Good UX is now required to stay competitive

1920s motorcross racers

Investing in UX is now widely perceived as a must in order to stay competitive as a business – apparently, an unbelievable number of you feel like you’re lagging behind the competition in this aspect. The good news, however, is that it sounds like most of you have big plans for improvements this year.

Here are a couple stats to make you sit back and stroke your chin:

91% of everyone surveyed felt like their websites don’t adequately communicate what’s awesome about their companies.
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Also:

89% of CEOs we surveyed feel like their user experience is at parity with, or lagging behind the competition.
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Either there’s been a mass outbreak of paralyzing insecurity in the design industry, or we all still have plenty of work to do. This tells me that there’s a huge opportunity for these companies to differentiate themselves and establish a competitive advantage by investing in a better customer experience than their competitors. It worked for AirBNB when it went up against entrenched competition from vacation rentals sites like VRBO. And Uber’s premium experience is still holding its own against traditional taxi cab companies. Both those companies have been able to eke out a modicum of financial success in industries known for poor/homogenous customer experiences, yes?

So then here’s the good news:

73% of everyone surveyed are actively considering investment in improved UX.
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Right on, guys! The fact that even among those who said they’re ahead of their competitors in UX, only 13% have no plans to improve their UX this year should serve as impetus to double-down in this area, and that the future for the design services industry is still looking bright (contrary to what the doomsayers doomsay all the time). Which means that even the best are going to continue improving, to maintain their current competitive edge.

Most people aren’t sure where to start

1920s reporter looking for inspiration at a typewriter

We wanted to know what some of the common problems are that you encounter, and although it was an open-ended question with largely qualitative feedback, there was a definite strong theme running through the answers–some of which we’ve unscientifically cherry-picked below:

Question: What’s the chink in your UX armor? What aspect of the user experience of your business, website or app could use the most improvement?”

Research as well as keeping the user in mind all of the time rather than giving in to business goals”


user research for design validation”


“At my company we are building tools that don’t currently exist for our customers so we have nothing to compare to or learn from. We have asked our customers “if you could wave a magic wand etc..” But how do we gain meaningful insights from all of their wishes?”


User research recruitment, and persona development”


“…incorporating user research, learning from real user’s behaviour”


“I’d love to learn more about your process and how you validate at different steps.”


“It’s not user centered, but stakeholder centered. Too much opinion, not enough research to validate decisions.”

Ok, ok, I know, emphasis mine (like I said, this part wasn’t highly scientific) but the need for a better understanding of research tactics and approaches, as well as how to generate meaningful insights from the research findings cropped up surprisingly frequently throughout the hundreds of answers we sifted through.

 

Designers need help making the business case for UX and design

1920s courtroom scene with a judge, witness and two lawyers

25% of all designers surveyed want advice & resources for making the case for UX to their stakeholders and upper management.

This one was pretty surprising – when given the opportunity to ask us one open-ended question, a quarter of all the designers amongst you wanted advice on how to persuade your clients, stakeholders and upper management to spend more time and budget on UX. Some of the best examples:

“When doing work that seems to be very obvious to you, how do you ensure you show its value to your clients?”


“How would you tackle ratcheting up the understanding of design within a organization?”


“How to prove the worth of UX to an old fashioned org?”


“how do you embed a UX mindset in a large and diverse organisation”


“What’s the best way to convey the importance of UX to clients who have minimal budgets (and want to spend it on the dev/design)?”


“How can we get real UX buy in from the Csuite?”

This is definitely an area in which we intend to help as much as we can!

So, where do we go from here?

Well first of all:

thank-you-gif-2015
A hearty thank you to everyone who participated in our survey! Your answers have really juiced us up to help you overcome your biggest design obstacles this year, regardless of your role – and here’s how we’re going to do it:

For CEOs & Founders: We’re going to dish all the advice that’s fit to print on identifying where to focus your design firepower to move the needle for your objectives. How’s that sound?

For Marketing & Product Pros: You’re going to be getting tools, tips and resources for researching game-changing breakthroughs and creating innovative, effective design strategies. We’ll also guide you towards implementing iterative design workflows with your teams. Word.

For Designers: Expect tons more practical advice and resources geared toward advocating for better UX to your stakeholders, whether they’re your clients, upper management, or even the next person in line at the grocery store. You’re welcome. 😉

For design agencies: We’ve experienced amazing growth over the past few years, which we directly attribute to an intense focus on our company culture, and commitment to a methodical, vetted design process. We’re going to share that process with you, as well as tons more advice on how to uplevel clients and forge trusting partnerships with them.

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