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The business case for UX design

(Image credit: Image search: Shutterstock/nenetus)

According to a McKinsey & Company report, businesses with strong design principles outperform industry-benchmark growth by as much as two to one.

Companies who prioritise customer experience are more likely to stand out from their competitors and enjoy greater brand loyalty long term. But how do you achieve excellent user experience? Through user experience design.

UX design is a problem-solving discipline that identifies customer issues and helps create software to overcome those issues. Put simply, UX is how it feels when you use a product while good UX means a product is straightforward and enjoyable to use.

It may sound obvious but many organisations fail here and as a result, multiple industries are littered with poorly conceived and designed products. To overcome this, design needs to be a central pillar of your business and not just an afterthought.

Smaller businesses and startups may feel they don’t have the resources to focus on design but what young companies really can’t afford is the negative impact of poor design. In any case, you don’t need big budgets to enjoy the benefits of a UX approach.

Here are four cost-effective ways UX can add value to your business: 

Identify any deal breakers

A deal breaker is a question that must be answered before a customer is willing to complete a transaction. This doesn’t necessarily mean a sale. It can also mean registering interest in a product, downloading whitepapers or eBooks or signing up for a free trial.

To detect potential deal breakers, businesses should carry out qualitative research with their target audience. The objective here is to uncover any psychological barriers so you can front foot them.

This is a key component of the UX design process, which involves three basic steps: talking to your customers, watching them interact with your product and asking for their feedback.

Honest feedback is pivotal in creating, developing and maintaining successful products.

To take the example of a travel insurance website, some deal breakers could be: How do I find the right level of cover for my holiday? Are flight cancellations included in the price? When do I pay? Are there any additional costs? Are any personal possessions excluded from the plan?

Addressing these questions won’t necessarily require a costly redesign of your website. All that’s usually needed is a reordering of the text; simple changes to ensure you’re presenting the right information, in the right way, in the right place.

Spot technical issues

Focusing on UX allows you to locate and eliminate technical issues. These are problems with the functionality or usability of the site rather than its content. These could be minor, like a confusing call to action or too many fields needed to complete an online form.

These sound like small issues but it’s often the little things which can frustrate potential customers most, resulting in them leaving your site in favour of a competitor.

Never underestimate feedback about how your website functions and meets user expectations. When you’ve worked closely on a project, your judgement can become clouded. What may be blatantly obvious to you, may be vague or confusing to a customer unfamiliar with your offering. You need to remember that you are not your target audience.

Running usability testing doesn’t have to be costly. You don’t need technical tools or expertise either. The main requirement for success is an open mind and the ability to remain neutral during the process. You must avoid asking leading questions or providing guidance in a way which could impact the experience or influence feedback.

Boost your return on investment (ROI)

Running a small business often means resources are limited. There are usually several competing priorities needing budget and it can be hard to know where to allocate spending. Every business owner wants to know the outcome a decision will have on their bottom line and whether they’ll see a direct return on investment.

Spending heavily on sales or marketing initiatives might seem like the most obvious route to revenue but it’s more important to think about the entire customer journey from start to finish. If you can increase your ad spend – great – but if you’re sending consumers to a sub-optimal landing page or website, you’re going to sell yourself short and cut your conversion rate.

As a result, you’ll lose both credibility and prospective customers to your competitors who have invested in UX.

It wouldn’t make financial sense for most startups and small businesses to hire a full-time UX designer but that doesn’t mean you can’t use an agency or a freelancer to help get the fundamentals right.

Investing in UX in the early stages of your growth will save you greater expenditure down the line. Trying to retrospectively fix poor design is a very costly job.

Close the digital skills gap

We’re currently experiencing a worldwide shortage of UX designers with the demand for this skillset far outstripping supply. UX design was even classed as one of the most ‘in-demand hard skills’ of 2019.

It’s unsurprising then, that the current skills gap in the UK has led to intense competition for talent, particularly in the tech industry. Small businesses are being outbid by larger corporations with big budgets and attractive benefit schemes.

However, what small businesses may lack in funds they often make up for in innovation. Showing a commitment to UX design can be a great way to position your brand as forward-thinking, meaning you’re more likely to attract quality candidates.

Offering UX training to current staff members can be a great way to engage your employees and improve your output. Upskilling your current team can help set your business apart and give employees a greater sense of value, meaning they’re likely to stay loyal for longer.

There are plenty of options for employers looking to upskill their employees in UX design. Many training courses (both online and in-classroom) offer flexible programmes which can fit around an individual’s lifestyle, be it personal or professional responsibilities.

Colman Walsh, Founder and CEO, UX Design Institute