Combining creativity, user research and data to build an optimal UX narrative

Putting the user first may be easy to believe and say, but it’s notoriously tricky to do; and many businesses struggle with the balance between their strategic objectives, stakeholder imperatives and what their users want (assuming this insight is even available).

Also, often, these stakeholders have very different ideas on what the problems to be solved are, never mind how to solve them, which can make progress difficult or more risky than it could be, especially if those narratives aren’t explicit.

What’s here?

  1. The ROI of UX as reported by successful companies and from research
  2. How to assess your UX maturity, and progress strategically and tactically
  3. How to mitigate common issues around UX deployment across teams

1. The ROI of UX

Is it worth it?

Research acquired by Oracle shows – amongst other persuasive factors – that 89% of consumers will buy from a competitor following a poor customer experience. In this context, I feel CX is synonymous with a good UX (in its broadest sense).

It’s reasonable to assume, then, if you provide a substandard experience for your users (customers), you’ll see a suboptimal return on your investment and effort.

To be fair, most businesses I’ve worked for understand this; however, it’s common to address such challenges only by forming untested and unvalidated assumptions about users, without a framework to support the process and maintain consistency and alignment. This may be successful, but it raises some key concerns:

  • How can you know exactly why your product or service is successful?
  • How will you develop your product in a way that keeps it performing well?
  • How will you avoid putting too much effort into a product (for example, to maximise sales value)?
  • How can you mitigate the risk of development that runs over or out of scope?

Show me the money… the benefits of good UX

Reviewing the above, the fundamental questions would seem to be: how much more successful could you be if you listened to real users; and what would your retention, loyalty and brand perception look like with better UX?

It’s impossible to say specifically, of course, without implementing a UX strategy, but there’s a great deal of evidence to support the argument for good UX:

Assess your UX maturity

Where to start?

In order to plan a route to where you want to be, you first need to know where you are. Note, though, this process should not kick off until you’ve got buy-in from leadership. Without it, a grassroots operation – no matter how well-informed or implemented – will soon start hitting blockers, and the process is likely to become misaligned or even counterproductive.

UX maturity

There are a number of models you can use to work out your position on a digital maturity scale; we’d recommend the following as it’s straightforward and quick to deliver value. You could also look at the Nielsen Norman Group UX maturity model, and there’s a collection of solutions on Natalie Hanson’s site.

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Making UX work for you

Once you know where you are, you can identify what you need to do to get to the next stage. Review the blockers above, plus any you’ve identified, and make them the focus of your efforts to move forward.

A three-step approach can help facilitate the process of making a UX strategy work across your organisation.

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This process can be applied to large or small businesses, and to digital strategy as a whole, or to a subset of it, such as UX strategy.

Reduce risk & maximise results

Three pillars to outside-in UX

  • Ethos: Brand and personality
  • Logos: Data and evidence
  • Pathos: Audience attunement
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The challenge can be in weaving all these narratives into a UX plan, and managing the different voices, types of input, and stakeholder requirements.

Pain points

  • Brand can be in conflict with audience tastes and current fashions; or the proposed designs are in conflict with your brand.
  • If your user research flies in the face of your data or best practice/previous research, or vice versa, then some more digging is required to find out where the incongruity has arisen.
  • If your data and best-practice are in conflict with your brand, then it’s time for some tough decisions. The same applies if the audience doesn’t like the way your brand is manifested in design.
  • Creative processes can conflict with known best practice and research.
  • User feedback can run contrary to known UX laws and principles.

The role of UX is to underpin this landscape with a set of principles, processes and agreements that mitigate risk and optimise outputs.

These common blockers can be mitigated by the following ten steps.

Strategically

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Tactically

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Timing & tone

This one is key, so I’m going to go into a little more detail here.

Many a creative/UX meeting has hit the buffers because some participants are in a convergent mode, and others are feeling divergent; the former may see the latter as wantonly disregarding evidence and best-practice, and the creatives could hear convergent input as critical and limiting.

The other common situation in such meetings is that some people are thinking solution-first, and others are not sure what the problem is everyone’s trying to solve.

There’s an approach that can make these conversations much more productive, and also ensure that the collective eye is on the user, and not individual agendas, feelings, assumptions or possibly irrelevant research. Also, it avoids risky solution-first processes, keeping the cart behind the horse where it belongs…

Separating creative & constructive thinking

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There are a number of different versions of this process; this is a very simple collation, but take a look at the Design Council Double Diamond, and a great post on design thinking by Dan Nessler on DXD for a more detailed approach.

Summing up

These steps may seem onerous, and will undoubtedly incur effort and meet resistance along the way, but they are evidentially worthwhile. Investing in UX, and building a strategic framework to support it, along with great processes will increase your success; all the evidence points to that conclusion.

Over to you…