As UX designers, having worked with a variety of businesses, we have realised that a lot of people ask how UX is going to benefit their business. There is often ambiguity about how UX can help their business grow. This article thus tries to address this fundamental question for the business owners and demonstrates how UX and Business growth go hand in hand.
Good UX practices are relevant for all businesses in today’s time. Whether it’s the users within your team using a software internally or customers using your product or service, the first point of contact with your brand invariably happens on a digital platform. As a business owner, it’s your website or app that provides this first critical point of interaction for the user, which makes or breaks the possibilities for any future connections with the user. This experience can either be smooth and intuitive, leaving the customer satisfied and wanting to come back again or can be confusing and frustrating which ultimately leads the user to abandon the website/app for good. UX or user experience plays a crucial role in building not only this initial rapport with the customer but also helps create long term relationships and loyalties with your product or service. The idea that good UX practices can lead to business growth may inconceivable to people unfamiliar with UX. To them, UX may sound like an abstract concept that’s often talked about but has no real-world implications for their own business. Through this article, we will thus try to demystify and break down into parts how UX and good UX practices can equip businesses to gain customers and achieve growth. The aim is to not only try and demonstrate how UX impacts businesses but to also highlight and make business owners aware of what these UX design processes and practices actually are.
Often, Business owners either ignore or do not have the foresight to understand how design can be a key element in shaping their businesses. Design is an encompassing term that includes research, planning, strategy, problem solving and sustainability. To design for business, it is important to first understand the brand, it’s target audiences, their needs and then to align these needs with the brand’s mission and goals. Similarly, UX or UX design is then clearly more than just designing wireframes; it also involves using research, strategy and sustainability centred around the idea of aligning user needs with business goals. UX then helps achieve this process of communicating the business goals to the customers using a combination of key elements like research, prototyping and UI.
Let’s first talk about research. The foundation for all things UX.
Research: Understanding the users and the business goals
Research is often undervalued by clients. A lot of businesses feel that they know their users very well. As for most of the clients, their sphere of knowledge and thinking is centred around their businesses, which can often be limiting. They are so involved in the business that they start believing that the users will be able to perceive their product as easily as they do. For example, the use of certain terminology that they are familiar with within the business might not be relevant for the users. Often information needs to be simplified for users to make sense of it, a simple fact that stakeholders may miss out on. Thorough research with a fresh perspective can answer the questions if users can perceive the design the way they are intended. User research can help a business take a more user-centric approach.
Research helps in defining who the users are, what are their goals and what are they trying to achieve through this product/platform. Let’s take another example, very often I have seen that people within organisations are trying to fix issues by reducing the number of steps or speeding up the system but sometimes what you need is to take a step back and look at a bigger scenario, like who is it that we are designing for, what is the goal of the user when they are on this page or was the user actually expecting to land on this page. This is where research comes into play. Research is not just about providing user data but it's a holistic approach aimed at understanding the business goals and needs and looking at a variety of research methods and applying the best one to extract the most vital data.
A thorough understanding of user needs and business goals lay the foundation of satisfied customers as well as stakeholders.
IA and wireframing: from ideation to implementation
It is often seen, that weak navigation or cluttered web page can add complexities for the user in finding the right content or accomplishing their goals. This can lead to frustration and result in losing customers. This is often due to often too many features and content being piled up over time or lack of structuring of information in the first place. Product owners often ignore or fail to understand the importance of Information architecture.
Information Architecture or IA structures and organises the project. In simple terms, it refers to the blueprint of the design structure by organising the information and content in the best way possible for both the stakeholders as well as the user. IA provides a hierarchy of information flows that can then be used to create wireframes and sitemaps. Using a good IA for your website or app can make your product more efficient and consistent. Creating an IA and following it up with low fidelity wireframes is essential to good UX practice. An early-stage (low- fidelity) wireframes is a way to translate those ideas discovered in the research and analysis phase into a tangible visual prototype. This makes it possible for you as stakeholders to see and interact with your ideas in a visual form. This is the stage where you can also provide their ideas and feedback. This is all helpful for a business because it is interpreting business goals into pages, at this stage all that is imagined has taken shape which gives a clearer vision of what the product is going to look like. It helps in bringing all the stakeholders on the same page.
UI design: defining your brand
“Good UI design gives users a comprehensible sense of power that consistently helps them feel in control.” — (Jim Nielsen)
UI is the next stage where the grid, rich typography, colours and images are introduced to give life to the wireframes. It distinguishes your product from the rest. For example, if your brand is targeted at a younger demographic, then the colours, typography, images and interactions that form the UI are going to represent the youthful sensibility of that page. This will help relate the brand to the right target user. At the same time, these visual details enhance not only the look and feel of the wireframes but create a certain connection and trust with the brand. Good UI helps communicates the voice of your brand to the right target market. But UI is much more than just typography, images and colours. It helps to define the hierarchy of information and the amount of emphasis required for each section of the page. A good UI design will make the page look consistent, more intuitive, seamless and easy to use.
Recent developments in UI design have emphasised on the role of design systems. With the constant innovation and ever-increasing number of devices, platforms, and environments, design systems are emerging as a new way of meeting up with these demands.
These design systems play a major role in reducing developmental efforts by providing a collection of usable components which can be assembled together to build pages. Using a single system can help prevent inconsistencies throughout the development process as the system becomes the one and only source of components and guidelines. The design system standardises components, type scale, colour pallet etc which makes it easier for the developer to reuse the code. From a business standpoint, design systems are a crucial way of saving time and effort and offer a convenient way to deliver faster and more consistent outputs.
To conclude, as the UX process moves forward it starts aligning the business goals, stakeholders vision and user goals and unites them into one. When all these missions, goals and visions are aligned it creates the best user experience for both users and the stakeholders which eventually leads to business growth.
As a UX designer, my advice to the business owners would be to become more aware and to develop an understanding of UX, to understand how different UX processes and functionalities affect aspects of their businesses, from their own goals to the needs of their customers and to actively collaborate with UX experts to create better products and happier customers!