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5 things you shouldn’t do when dealing with UX – decisions that make a meaningful UX strategy impossible

Clemens Lutsch
Clemens Lutsch
June 30th, 2020

 

Warning UX - Don't try this at homeNowadays it’s obvious for a company to approach the topic of user experience and try to take advantage of the human-centred design into their own organization as part of a UX strategy. However, the nature of the topic “UX”, which combines technical as well as design and analytical domains through a new approach, quite often creates organizational heartburn… because management often does not really know where exactly such expertise is located. And even if you have found a home for UX in the organization… how to deal with it?

The first part of the article is about 5 things that you shouldn’t do if you want to successfully introduce UX in the company. Each of these 5 things is based on real situations found in real teams and real companies. A possible resemblance to known situations or recognition cannot therefore be ruled out ?.

#1 – The knowledge-free decision maker

Decision makers decide. This is obvious, because sometimes things simply have to be decided. However, it would be desirable that a decision maker also knows the things he has to decide on. Unfortunately, there are always situations where this knowledge is incomplete or even missing. In the field of UX, the last is often the rule. We know the manager who became a manager as a result of an assessment center, but who is absolutely unqualified in the field that he is managing. We know the manager who makes a decision for the sake of making a decision and not based on professional knowledge. We know managers who make decisions to consolidate positions of power and not to serve the project. At UX the visibility of these decisions is a double-edged sword. The impact on the perceived quality of the products and the brand is as relevant as the impact and significance for the development and innovation of the systems themselves. However, if the decision maker lacks the knowledge of the criteria of good human-centred design, a decision is left to personal opinion alone and is therefore unfortunately not qualified. This is similar to an architect saying that this load-bearing wall could be removed after all, because the ceiling would somehow hold anyway. When you hear something like that you should not have a good feeling. Unfortunately, however, such meaningless sayings are heard again and again when it comes to UX. But then they say, “Variant A is supposedly simpler, but I like B better” or “Well, I think the button is visible… I don’t know what kind of problem the users have…” or “Personally, I think this is too complex…”.

So, if you want to fail with UX in the company, make sure that decision-makers are not equipped with knowledge of UX. Let managers act from assessment centers, let their personal opinion override sound knowledge and you will have very interesting times.

 

#2- Sustainable avoidance of clear responsibility

When it comes to UX issues, everyone wants to have a say. Everyone has an opinion, because “one is also a user…”. This saying (and why it is exactly the reason why those involved in the project cannot always have a say in everything) will be covered in the 2nd part of this blog post. UX shares the same fate as communication design. Unfortunately, the everyday experience leads to everyone feeling called and empowered to contribute a personal experience in professional discussions. And so, when working in projects, too often, professionally sound knowledge and established methods compete with personal opinions, which may be vehemently expressed. Since it is almost impossible to resolve this confusion in an orderly manner, an organization drags this very confusion through a project in a unfortunately highly inefficient and therefore cost-intensive way – to the bitter end. Decisions are watered down, meetings inflated, ambiguities are avoided, solutions delayed, blurriness is created and a team often works against established knowledge and required qualities. ISO 9241-210 (Human-centred Design) requires that there should be clear accountability for the activities in the human-centered design of systems.

UX without a manager with a management-backed mandate paves the way for any, expensive, unsustainable, and resource-intensive actionism. It is safe to assume that the UX roles spend a good part of their working time justifying themselves and their work, as well as their results, in front of others.

 

#3 – Say “User Experience”, but you are just thinking “just make it nice”

User Experience is a holistic topic. This means that work on UX starts very early, in initial project ideas and continues throughout the entire life cycle of a system. Nothing is dumber than equating UX with “aesthetics”. It is about the perceived quality of a system and the expectations of the user. A system that has been developed without the needs of the user cannot be salvaged through cosmetics. And it is obvious that polishing details here and there is naive because it is inefficient.

This disregard for the topic UX is often expressed in job advertisements. They are looking for a “UX Manager”, who is supposed to “bring his ideas into a dynamic team” (= concept/strategy), doing research (= empiricist and user researcher), visualize ideas in prototyping tools (= interaction designer) and of course can convince visually (= interface designer). In addition, that candidate should be familiar with common technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The fact that we are talking about completely different qualifications is a learning process that takes time for many companies.

The topic of user experience has grown in its various forms over decades. It has been encompassed in various national and international standards and demands a deep, well-founded knowledge from specialists. This cannot be acquired by reading 2 articles or certified after a 2-day training.

The best way to frustrate UX professionals in your company and to deny your company the added value of a holistic UX strategy is to treat UX like a smiley sticker that you stick on something that is no laughing matter.

 

#4 – Steer clear of evidence-based decisions

During an initial interview, my contact told me about a far-reaching decision regarding an UI Design Framework. After a long discussion and evaluation of a survey, the decision was made to take the framework “HoweverYouNameIt”. I frowned (on the one hand this makes a serious impression and on the other hand I had flinched at the word “survey”) and wanted to know more precisely what kind of survey they referred to. My information needs were satisfied by the technical project manager assured me that the survey among the developers was clearly in favor of the UI Design Framework “HoweverYouNameIt”, because that is the one that best fits the chosen IT strategy and is also ideal for the users. So, now I was sitting there… and had to inform the poor people that their “survey” unfortunately was void… they had found their solution, but unfortunately, they did not yet know the problem.

This example shows that when we are dealing with UX, very often decisions are based on incorrect, missing or insufficiently questioned information. This pattern also includes decisions that follow the opinion which was given with most vehemence… according to the motto: “Whoever is loud is right!”. This is, of course, complete nonsense, because only those who can prove theirs position by means of objective, comprehensible arguments are in the running for decision-making. If this information, this ‘evidence’ is not available to all parties, it must be clear to all involved that any decision is an assumption. This assumption might be refuted by objective evidence… or established as a fact.

A lot of basic knowledge about UX and UI design is documented in the standards and expertise of the profession. We are in the fortunate position to work with this information and thus create added value in projects… both in terms of content and organisation (in which, for example, we do not have to discuss things that have long been documented and specified elsewhere).

However, if you prefer to play russian roulette and want to align decision-making according to the volume of the lecturer, if you prefer not to choose your path based on a map and compass, please do not talk to experts… because facts might irritate you.

 

#5 – Thinking only in costs instead of effects

A common misconception in the industry is that one would have to invest in UX. But a user’s experience with a product, system or service always happens. So, the vendor has no choice… he has already created a user experience. Resources have been spent, decisions have been made about UX. If a company has a low level of UX maturity (i.e. does not conform to human-centred design standards to a large extent), then this relevant work has been done by non-specialist personnel, by uninformed decision-makers, or by people who have done it “on the side”. Thus, the existing investment in UX is hidden in the “anyhow” costs… and nobody really knows how big this investment actually is… not to mention that the consequences of bad UX and bad usability are hardly foreseeable in the implemented solution.

Let a calculation example illustrate this. A visit to a software forge in the north of Germany was about the realignment of the existing solution. The most pressing problem was the inconsistency in the interaction design… at least in the view of the supplier. In my opinion, the most urgent problem was that everything in the user interface did not fit together. I wanted to know who is implementing the UI and user guidance in the current version. I was introduced to 3 developers present. Let’s say these developers get €60,000 per year. According to their own statement, the UI topic takes up about a third of their working time. 3 developers invest 20,000 € per year for UX / UI. This makes €60,000 a year of direct investment in UX… but executed by non-specialist staff. In addition, there are services from marketing, management and some other developers. The customer admitted to spending a sum of about €90,000 – €120,000 per year over “anyhow” costs. These funds can be used much more effectively with professionally qualified specialists… not to mention the capacity released for employees who have done UI work “on the side” as part of their working hours (which, in addition, has also limited their productivity in the area for which they were actually qualified).

Of course, these employees were briefly irritated that “they were deprived of a responsibility” (which they should never have had in the first place), but then became quite happy to be able to do their job again without this “UI stuff”. With the right personnel, the company was able to create a modern and usable solution in the shortest possible time with fewer resources and increased efficiency.

But if you prefer to have UX in the company conducted by people who have no qualification for it, just keep listening to the voices that steadily talk about how expensive it all is… and not to those who talk about the benefits!

If you would like to learn more information about UX in an organization, the strategic possibilities of UX and about UX & Digitization or just want to get in touch with Clemens Lutsch, our Head of UX Strategy, you can find more information here: https://www.centigrade.de/de/leistungen/ux-strategy

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