Last week I had the esteemed privilege of co-presenting at the first ever UX Strat Conference, a conference dedicated to the practice of User Experience Strategy. I was lucky enough to co-present a case study on an experiment that fellow UXer Paul McAleer and I conducted earlier this year. The main component of that experiment was showcasing, to UXers and non-UXers alike, a new method of mapping user experience activity to business value, and boy did we learn alot! But before I get into our learnings, let me tell you why we conducted this experiment in the first place.
The Current State
It’s no surprise to the UX community that our profession is not always valued to the extent that we think it should be. Often times, UX and especially strategic UX is seen as a luxury or a quick add-on to projects. Frequently, we are brought on to teams solely to make it “pop” or to make it work “like Pinterest”. In these situations UXers are seen as quick fixers who have some magic fairy dust that makes even the most useless idea “go viral”. Obviously, this is not the case, nor is it the nature of what we desire our profession to be.
To be fair to all the Non-UXers out there that have this perception of User Experience Design, we, as UX professionals, have not done a good job of claiming our value otherwise (see Want to Sell UX? Stop Talking UX! For more).
Thus UX is sitting in a current state where our value is not recognized by others, in large part because we don’t do a good job of showcasing that value in a meaningful way.
To UX professionals, the problems that occur because of this current state are obviously. For those non-UXers reading this, they may not be. Thus let me explain the main point. Perhaps, the biggest problem that we all face when we don’t value User Experience in a meaningful, non-interface-only way is the fact that, when not seen as a high business value, UX cannot be used to bring all the immense business value that it should be bringing. Simply put, our businesses and users suffer, because they UX experience is used solely for interface updates, and jazzing things up, as opposed to doing things like better matching product needs to user needs to ensure more purchases and more happy users. Focusing on UX’s value as a quick fix, therefore, wastes a whole lot of money.
Thus, Paul and I put together a 3 hour workshop to conduct our experiment in a better way to explain the value of UX to Non-UXers. Our intent was to show a graph that mapped different levels of business value to the different UX activities. The hope was that those outside of UX would visually see proof that having more UX activities in the company, outside of interface design, would bring the business exponentially more business value. How could they not love that, right?
The workshop was split up with the first 1/3 being a 101-102 level introduction to the totality of what User Experience is, and the last 2/3 being a workshop where we walked the attendees through an exercise of showing business value in regards to UX activity.
In our audience were people from across the company including people from: Engineering, User Experience, Quality Assurance, Brand, Product, Project Management, Business and more. This was a huge positive for us because Paul and I felt that we could affect and educate those that we really needed to reach.
Unfortunately, our outcomes did not match our hypothesis. We found that many people, even with proof that more strategic UX meant more business value, really didn’t care what we had to say. They simply weren’t interested. Instead, they were interested on how all this wonderful ware we were selling would affect their job. How did this fit into Agile? What about lean? How do I keep my project on schedule and budget and add all this glorious UX stuff in?… these were only a few of the questions we heard.
What we found was that, by not starting with the effect, we were unable to capture our audience at all. Further, people in this company didn’t see the gaps that we were claiming to fill with UX. “Isn’t product already doing all of this?”, was but one point we heard.
We realized that, although our message is sound, in order to spread it we needed to show a great deal more empathy for the audience that we were trying to report into.
In the upcoming months, I’ll be writing more about the mapping method, as I believe it is extremely useful in building a case for more UX. However, I will conclude this piece by reminding us UXers that, only we see the gaps. What is that I say? I’m saying that only UX sees the need for UX education, and only UX sees the real business value of UX. Until we have empathy for our business and company partners, we will never be able to expose the gaps that we see to them in a meaningful way, and then be able to fill those gaps with the knowledge we have.
Keep this in mind as you go forth to bring the message that is User Experience. That is, explain why there is a problem, and THEN show them how UX solves it. Oh, and don’t forget to let your partners know how it will affect their jobs too :-).
Here are the slides from our talk. Simple, but the main point slide drives the idea home: