User experience is rapidly becoming more of a key consideration for brands as they seek to provide enjoyable platforms for consumers to engage with. But what are the big issues currently facing companies looking to improve their user experience?
François Roshdy, lead consultant, Border Crossing Media: Overcoming negativity is still a big issue. People seem to be keen to invest in UX but fear what they may discover and what the consequences might be if they start scratching away at decisions that have been made previously.
Some companies are reticent to pay for the staff and skills required to implement in-house continuous improvement policies and website governance procedures. Many businesses need to stop viewing UX as a silver bullet or a one-off investment: the key to developing a compelling UX is an ongoing investment that, over time, should be internalised.
It can be difficult to secure the time needed from key decision-makers and front-line staff to contribute to the research and validation stages of a UX project. It’s vital to get buy-in from senior decision makers – more often than not we feel that middle-management and frontline staff are often the ones most receptive to change and most willing to invest time to make sure things are done well.
Candy Diemer, design team lead, Technophobia: In some companies, there’s still a mistaken expectation that UX can deliver quick fixes. UX needs to take into consideration more than just a website or an app – it is the alignment of the all the business’s strategies. The customer does not experience your brand based on your business structure, so segmenting marketing and business products into screen real estate does not effectively integrate the business objectives into the UX.
Michael Naman, head of creative technology, Weapon7: We’ve found that brands understand user experience but have not necessarily embraced it. In order to really maximise the UX they need to be able to iterate quickly, get to a MVP (minimum viable product) and test to see how it performs. This is difficult as brands like to know exactly what they are getting and how much it is going to cost. By the time the project is signed off the UX is set in stone and is difficult to tailor to the user as it unfolds. It takes a lot of confidence for a brand to undertake a project with no clearly defined outcome.
Travis McBride, senior UX consultant, Pancentric: Great UX comes from a user-centred culture that starts with brand and business strategy and flows out to every part of an organisation, from the directors to the person answering the phones. If UX hasn’t got universal buy in, with processes to support it, then it’s never going to be more than a tactic with limited benefits. It’s about long term commitment, not quick fixes.
Emma Kirk, strategic director, User Vision: Companies need to consider how to present themselves on mobile devices. This raises questions on whether they go the app route, use responsive design, or create a dedicated mobile site. Having to consider how a site will look and behave across different platforms requires careful consideration. Most users now expect a seamless, consistent experience across all devices. More and more companies are moving over to agile development so there are issues with the transition from waterfall and the integration of UX with agile. Part of the problem is also dealing with various different interpretations and versions of agile UX.
Hayden Evans, creative director, Rippleffect:
Even the most groundbreaking of user experiences is only as good as the strategy and organisational culture put in place to support it. A strong UX phase may highlight potential improvements in areas such as content strategy, engagement channels or customer relationship management in addition to traditional design enhancements. While the benefits may be obvious and deemed vital to improve customer experience moving forward, it will often not be a simple case of implementing changes and continuing with life as before. Gaining buy-in from top to bottom within the organisation is vital to encourage a cultural change, while directly involving stakeholders in feedback and testing processes will actively prevent resistance and negativity when a new user experience is rolled out.
Have clients' perceptions of UX changed in recent times?
Lee Duddell, founder and head of UX, whatusersdo: Yes, clients are increasingly recognising how improving UX impacts the bottom-line not only in terms of increased revenue but also through reduced costs and improved customer loyalty.
As a result of this enlightenment, our clients are now embedding UX testing as part of a user-centred approach. The influence of the HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) is diminishing as clients increasingly focus on the experience of real users.
Michael Naman, head of creative technology, Weapon7: Definitely. A couple of years ago there wasn’t the same level of understanding from most clients as to how essential UX is to any project. Generally if a budget was tight, UX time was the first thing to be scaled back. Now with the meteoric rise in the use of mobile devices and social media channels, clients understand more than ever the positive impact a good user experience can have.
Greg Meek, head of design & development, Stickyeyes: We don’t think so. Most clients still seem to undervalue the importance of UX design processes. Whether it’s performing full-on user testing or acquisition-focused A/B or multivariate testing, many clients don’t value an ongoing, iterative design process. Ultimately it boils down to a lack of willingness to invest in design, which has long been a problem. It doesn’t help that UX isn’t inherently part of a designer’s toolkit. Web designers graduate into our industry with a plethora of skills, but this usually doesn’t include knowledge of how to implement UX processes. With that in mind, we as designers need to learn on the job and change the perceptions of colleagues and clients if UX is going to become the norm.
For further insights, subscribers can read about the mistakes brands are making with UX and download a pdf copy of the UX Guide.