UX is hot. The phrase is everywhere, and user-centric design has become a shining beacon of hope for product, design, and marketing teams throughout the world.
Lucky for many of us, the early adopters of UX practices have scaled the mountain, leaving a well-charted course for others. As company culture permits, innovation-seekers continue to explore ways to incorporate UX best practices into their process.
Here are some thoughts on what to consider as you climb toward a workplace devoted to the user experience.
- An opportunity for companies like yours to get things right.
- The chance to create experiences that have meaning for your customers.
- Customers will love you. They'll continue to buy from you. They'll shout your name from the rooftops!
A shift in culture: what to expect
The process of incorporating the practice of user experience into large organizations can be a slow one. Long-time managers who have historically been resistant to change may be a little slower on the uptake. Some executives may take a little additional time to warm up to the idea that they aren’t the ones calling all of the shots (and that this is a good thing!).
More voices, less design-by-committee
User experience professionals value unbiased input. The feedback that they gather informs their work. Ultimately, this leads to rapid prototypes that are then refined and tested before moving into development.
Gone are the days of waterfalls and mythical due dates. As large enterprises adopt a lean approach to design and development, engineering cycles become shorter, and executives see results more quickly. Read the Agile Manifesto and Jeff Gothelf’s article on the 5 steps to kicking off your lean UX team.
Change will happen. But once agile takes hold and UX teams are able to ramp up, this change will happen in rapid succession. A feature will be released, and before you know it, an improved version will be live.
An ego check
Nothing says ‘I told you so’ like a usability study. Those who think they have all of the answers are in for a wake-up call.
There isn’t a successful company out there that isn’t performing competitive research and analyzing their data. With a UX-first approach, a broader subset of employees will become experts in the company’s website (or software, or app), users’ needs, businesses goals, and the competition. How? Usability testing, surveys, ethnography, and interviews, to name a few.
“Run a moderated test or two on that, would you?” and “Let’s do some card sorting,” are common hallway terms. Heatmaps, UX, UI, IA -- the world of user experience offers up a new language that sometimes requires deciphering.
The beauty of user experience research is that it uncovers a lot of unknowns. You’ll see where people get hung up on everything from brand positioning to product details to purchase flows. And you’ll want to fix them.
Your customers are the experts
No one can define the user experience better than the person using your website. This can come as a shock to founders who have never let their “baby” go.
The challenges of change
Too much time spent researching can lead to an overwhelming backlog of ideas. The goal is to identify the most critical issues and then design, test, learn, and iterate.
As companies move towards a more collaborative and open way of getting work done, there will be swift advances in communication techniques, design reviews, and meeting structures. These won’t come without a price. Adopting new tools, language and project rhythm will take some time.
There will be people within the company who are uneasy with constant change. In my experience, these folks will be required to go along for the ride, and given the right amount of support and encouragement, they will eventually come around.
What you’ll need
UX designers are equal parts strategic and creative. Good, experienced professionals possess an uncanny ability to combine input with the customer’s unrealized expectations in order to create an incredible experience. This skill doesn’t just “happen”; it’s cultivated. Having at least one seasoned pro on the design team is mission-critical.
A strong product team
Solid product owners who are capable of prioritizing your product roadmap and staying nimble will get you a long way. As brand champions, customer voices, and technology experts, the people on a product team can make or break a company’s success.
An adaptive engineering team
There’s a lot more to iterative projects than prototypes and user tests. Your engineering team will need to become adept at handling smaller pieces of larger projects, chunking their work into sprints that lead to bigger feature sets. You’ll need someone experienced at the helm.
An open mind
Things will be different. The culture will shift. Some people will get frustrated, while others will be excited. It takes time to change, but the payoff can be great.
Leadership that empowers
User experience design is an incredible blend of creativity, psychology, and intellect. Great UX teams thrive in flexible, open cultures where each person can manage their responsibilities and deliver experiences that work.
A new toolset
Typically, user experience experts will have a plethora of services at their disposal. While most of these tools aren’t deployed enterprise-wide, you can expect an uptick in the budget for these cloud-based solutions.
The top of the mountain
Turning a company’s entire design (and build) process is an incredible feat. But the truth of the matter is, if you want to attract top talent and build something unforgettable, the path is not always an easy one. Lead with learning and listening, incorporate customer feedback, and uphold the value of design along the way and you’ll be halfway up the mountain before you realize it.
And the view from the top? Spectacular.
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Stef Miller is a former marketer at UserTesting, where she spent most of her time connecting people with content. Miller has worked for global corporations and teeny tiny studios, and believes that true happiness comes from collaborating with creative people to make awesome things happen.