Running a business without good User Experience Design (UX) is like driving a car without tires. It’ll run, perhaps. But not well. And you’re doing damage to your brand every time you take it out in public. UX measures how a consumer feels when interacting with a system. It’s the art, and science, of trying to fulfil the user’s needs, which, in turn, leads to improved business performance: better loyalty, less attrition, more conversions, more interaction, more revenue.
The current state of UX adoption
UX Design is commonplace these days, although specific rates of adoption vary from company to company.
When InVision surveyed over 2000 businesses across 24 industries, they found that 77% of them recorded improved customer satisfaction as a direct result of good design. 81% said design had also improved product usability.
“We found that those dominating their industries are the ones treating the screen like the most important place on Earth” the report said. “In fact, companies with high design maturity see cost savings, revenue gains, and brand and market position improvements as a result of their design efforts.”
Interestingly, while the benefits of UX have been known for a while now (the discipline dates back to the 19th century, although it didn’t really get moving till the 1990s) InVision also found that only 5% of companies are empowering designers to reap the maximum benefit. In other words, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Even within companies who claim to champion good user design.
To measure how good your company may or may not be at UX, we first have to look at something called ‘Design Maturity’.
What is Design Maturity?
Design Maturity, or UX Maturity as it’s sometimes known, is a framework to assess a company’s investment and commitment to user-centered design. It’s a cheat sheet. A way for companies to quickly take stock of their UX strengths and weaknesses. Jakob Nielsen developed one of the earliest UX Maturity models in 2006, which included eight ‘stages’ of maturity, but there have been subtle improvements over the years, and these days most maturity models feature about five or six stages.
Still, they share a similar structure.
- Stage 1: Absent. The lowest stage of maturity. User Design is ignored completely within the company.
- Stage 2: Limited. UX work occurs, but it’s rare and not particularly valued.
- Stage 3: Emergent. The UX work is promising, but lacks consistency.
- Stage 4: Structured. The company has a structured UX program, but with varying degrees of success.
- Stage 5: Integrated. UX work is structured, effective, and intrinsic to the organisation.
- Stage 6: User-driven. UX dedication permeates all levels of the company, revealing deep insights.
The more your company invests in UX, the more structured that investment becomes, and the more integrated the findings are across the entire business, the more ‘mature’ it’s said to be.
Improving your UX maturity can be done in several ways. You can look at culture (how UX is valued within the company, and the number of dedicated UX professionals), strategy (how UX resources are prioritised, and to what end), process (how UX research is systematically used within the company) and outcomes (intentionally outlining the ROI and KPI of various UX initiatives).
The important thing to remember is that these factors don’t exist in isolation. There’s no point hiring more and more UX designers, for example, if leadership isn’t on-board, if designers’ findings aren’t worked into the wider business, if there are no structures in place, or specific user-based targets established. UX maturity is almost a mindset, and it works most effectively when everyone believes in the power of good design.
“Not all companies understand the value of UX, especially companies at the lower levels of holistic integration and design maturity,” notes DesignerUp. “But for a company to see these benefits, adoption is crucial. This includes involvement from the key stakeholders and how design is considered at every stage of product decision making.”
The benefits of UX Design
Because UX design touches all aspects of a digital product, its potential is almost limitless. Good UX can improve product quality, obviously – it literally makes digital products more useable – but it can also benefit customer satisfaction, long-term engagement, employee productivity, brand loyalty, time to market, conversion metrics, brand equity and (of course) revenue.
“User experience is important because it tries to fulfil the user’s needs,” says UX expert Prayag Gangadharan. “It aims to provide positive experiences that keep a user loyal to the product and brand. A meaningful user experience allows you to define customer journeys on your product that are most conducts to business success.”
Frank Chimero famously put it another way: “People ignore design that ignores people.”
The findings back this up. When InVision surveyed over 2000 global companies, they found a huge discrepancy between the performance of ‘mature’ UX brands, versus those with minimal UX investment. Companies at ‘Level 5’ (the most mature stage) recorded four times the revenue, five times the cost savings, six times faster time-to-market, and 26 times better valuation. Those are crushing statistics.
The evidence is pretty clear. UX maturity equals profit. It equals relevance. And best of all, it equals happy users.
Want to improve your company’s UX credentials? RMIT Online runs several UX and UI short courses, diplomas and degrees.