When user experience design meets inception

Paul Boag

When seeking to improve the experience of users it is easy to stop at the superficial. But that will not lead to long term success.

What is it they say? “Ideas are cheap. Implementation is everything”. Nowhere is that more true than in user experience design. It is relatively easy to identify ways to improve the experience of users. But making those improvements is much harder.

Take for example the most common user experience improvement of all – updating the website. As web professionals most of us have a good handle on what to do to improve a website. We can design and build that. But that doesn’t mean it will succeed. That is because we have only addressed the first level of the experience.

Level 1: The user touchpoint

Most designers focus on level one. That is the touchpoint between the user and the organisation. This might be a mobile app, a website or a social media channel. In fact there are a growing number of digital touchpoints between a customer and organisation. Some even involve no interface at all.

But designing a touchpoint is only the start of designing the user experience.

Level 2: Organisational structures

Designing a great interface does not always lead to a great user experience. That is because a great interface often requires organisational changes that rarely happen.

For example designing a user centric information architecture could become incompatible with business silos. This means either the organisation needs to start working across silos or they need to replace those silos.

Disney Magicband
Disney had to make huge organisational changes when they introduced the Disney Magicband.

If you want to produce quality and consistent content you might have to centralise. But do you have the people in place to manage that content centrally?

Designing the user touchpoints is useless unless you also address governance, structure and resourcing. These things are crucial to make those new interfaces work. This is the second level of user experience design.

But even that is not enough.

Level 3: Transforming culture through education

I am working with a not-for-profit at the moment who gets the importance of better user experience. They have grasped the need to improve their touchpoints. They have even implemented sweeping organisational changes to support it. Their executive have outlined a new direction and change is happening at a blistering pace. But they are still struggling.

They are struggling because they have been slow to adopt the third level of user experience design. They need to address the cultural challenges through a programme of education.

A programme built around workshops, service manuals, prototypes, testing and collaboration. A programme that exposes employees to best practice through newsletters, blog posts, guest speakers and more.

Many employees don’t understand why change is happening and how it impacts them. They are not on board with the process. A programme of education will fix that.

The truth is that people don’t like change. They have their familiar ways of working and they want to stick with them. Faced with something new that they do not understand they will often resist. Even in the face of organisational directives they will drag their feet.

To improve the user experience you have to address these kinds of cultural issues. You need to win hearts and minds. That is where an internal comms campaign becomes crucial. One to explain the benefits of change and educate employees about best practice.

Everybody from the executive team to each employee has to believe that user experience matters. If they do not they will resent the changes happening and be slow to implement change.

Where are you?

So the question then becomes, where are you? Where is your organisation? Are you making superficial changes to the user experience? Or have you started addressing the structural and cultural changes? Changes that must happen to create a beneficial user experience.

If you need help addressing these deeper issues, get in touch.