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The perils of UX as a commodity

User Experience is frequently called out as a driver of success. So it’s no surprise that several attempts to objectively measure the value of UX design have been carried out.

One report by McKinsey found that those with a high score (referred to as the McKinsey Design Index score, or MDI) also performed better financially. Companies with top-quartile MDI scores outperformed benchmarks by as much as two to one. This finding gives user experience design c-level visibility like never before.

Fifteen years ago, when UX was still known as ‘Human Factors’, fledgling consultants had to justify their existence on a daily basis. Then, as now, we advocated an approach that put humans at the centre of design. It seemed common sense, but it was a continual battle. The MDI score, and other studies, are finally proving the point objectively and measurably: UX impacts business success.

But do you need a UX designer working for you? The answer is more complicated than you think.

Don’t be UX-hasty

We often see businesses dive head first into hiring a designer, without understanding who or what they really need from UX — and most importantly, why. The job description will ask for a lead or ‘Head of’ UX Design, skilled in UI, able to work strategically across multiple (often scores) of projects, with a deep understanding of AR, VR and AI, and a deep working knowledge of the latest JavaScript library too.

We have to tell you: this jack-of-all-trades, rainbow-coloured unicorn sounds far more ‘bedroom wunderkind’ than ‘boardroom mastermind’.

But what’s the alternative? Where should a business start on their path to design-savvy success?

The UX Readiness Check

Before posting a role on job sites, take care of planning first. We’re going to explain what we mean by planning, using a ‘UX readiness check’.

  • Start by tasking someone in the top tier of your organisation to analyse the boundaries that exist internally (e.g. physical products, services, web presence, marketing, brand), but don’t exist externally for your customers.

  • Think about where UX should sit in your company to have most visibility and impact. Identify the barriers to organisational culture change.

  • Try to understand what’s working well, and not so well from a customer’s perspective.

  • Identify the gaps in your organisation’s knowledge of your customer’s experience.

  • Be honest. Be objective.

This UX readiness check is not as simple as it sounds. Like most organisations, you’ll realise you know less about how your customers behave than you think you do. It’s likely to take several months to get a handle on the pain points and challenges of your company’s customer interactions.

Of course, a team of seasoned UX professionals could complete this check in a fraction of the time — but don’t discount the DIY approach. It’ll whet your appetite for UX and design thinking.

Making UX mean more to your business

A score, whether MDI, Net Promoter Score (NPS), or any industry alternative, rarely provides you with clear guidance next steps. An objective review, focusing on actionable insights to optimise the customer’s experience is far more meaningful to your business.

The value of a UX-led strategy will become clear once a properly considered method is applied. It will also make the actions you need to take more apparent. You’ll quickly discover who (the type of character, their experience and potentially how many different specialists) to hire, what they’ll need to focus on first, and how much effort it’s likely to take to get the job done properly.

How to make sure UX is doing its best work

For almost ten years, we’ve been helping companies get ‘UX ready’ and showing them how to embed a user-centric culture. We also place entire UX teams in organisations — but before doing so, we identify the true challenges, so that our teams can do their best work.

What’s important? What isn’t? Who can help drive this? Who will detract? How can we support and nurture design talent to thrive in a less design-savvy organisation? How can we prioritise the opsportunities within the organisation to meet customer expectations? What outcomes do you need delivered to sustainably affect your bottom line?

We don’t have your answers here, because they’re unique to your organisation. But we can help you find them.

If you want to learn more then please get in touch to talk through how User Experience can help you as a driver of success

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