Quantifying the ROI of UX designFor a long time, design was sought after, purely to make products look good. Nobody really cared how they functioned or how well the user enjoyed them after buying them. But thankfully, a revolution started taking place; and much more focus is on the UX of all the small things, these days. Having a fantastic user experience at all product stages can make or break a product entirely. Without solid interaction before, while using, and after possibly purchasing a product, our users may feel cheated out of their money, or feel that our product is sub-par compared to competitors’. More often than not, it’s to everyone’s benefit to have extensive UX design research done before a product goes to market. Not only will taking the time to research and develop the user experience properly give us happier users, but it can also empower higher conversion rates, decrease product support queries, and make our product much easier and more enjoyable to use.
It’s an investment for smooth deploymentProper user experience research and design is critical for a successful product development timeline. There are already a plethora of existing products and services out there today in just about every market that the user can turn to, so we must set the things we build apart. [pullquote]The cost of going back and fixing errors…is typically immensely more expensive than planning them into the core of the product to begin with.[/pullquote] UX design is not only about driving conversions and making users happy though; it’s also a tool for making our products more robust. In performing this research, we develop a clear picture of how our product functions, why each element is needed, and what the best way to go about developing it may be. It also has the added benefit of bringing in new feature ideas and driving innovation before the product is even built! In a saturated market, it isn't uncommon to see a new player come to town and rise above all the others simply because of a more robust offering. But chances are, they didn’t get to that position by slacking, or racing to get the product out the door. The cost of going back and fixing errors or adding in functionality after the fact is typically immensely more expensive than planning them into the core of the product to begin with. Adding features in afterward also runs the risk of making the product appear less consistent, and more like its competitors who are held together with hope and duct tape. After all, nobody likes to use a product that is attempting to do too many things at once. It's better to do one thing well than to do many things poorly.
Reducing down-the-road costsAdding development time to push out new features or fix broken functionality after launch can be immensely more expensive than getting it right in the first place. Not only do the designers and developers have to plan how to add in the new stuff, but they also have to keep it consistent with the old, and likely conform to whatever technology the core of the product was built with. This is no easy feat, and it greatly limits flexibility. To complicate matters further, if there’s a large enough gap between launch and the next major feature revision, That may mean working with outdated technology. Even more cost can come into play when you factor having to support poorly implemented core features or a broken user experience due to a rushed timeline or poor planning. More often than not though, if users are frustrated enough to require help using the product, they won’t be using it for long.
Lost conversions mean lost usersConversions have been the driving force behind the popularity of UX design in recent years. Business minded people like accountants and CEOs can sometimes get behind making users happy and providing a robust experience; but they can nearly always get behind having better performing conversion analytics. Having a robust-looking product is the first step in giving our users the security they want in order for them to sign up. When looking for a product, we always gravitate towards the ones that seem to perform well, appear solid, and are easy to use. So while spending time going through the play by play of user experience flows may seem tedious, it’s all for a great cause and we'll see immense benefit from it down the road.
Money isn’t always the driving forceUp until now, we’ve focused primarily on the ROI of monetary investments. But there’s also a great conversation to be had about time investment as well. All products and services take an investment of time to create, particularly passion projects. Ensuring we spend out time as wisely as we spend our money is just as important, if not more so. Many products and services out there are free, or don't seek to sell their users anything. They just want us using their product or service over a competitor. In these situations, it’s even more critical to get the UX right. Without the opportunity to recover the money/time investment it took to create a product from its sales, getting it right the first time can be critical as going back to fix mistakes in the first iteration can be prohibitively expensive. This is very evident in the start-up industry, where we either get the product right the first time or the start-up could die entirely as a result.
Quality counts, not quantityThink of our product as a piece of dough: it’s limited in its volume unless you add more by means of additional resources (ie, investment). When we set out to build with our dough, it’s critical not to spread it too thin. In attempting to cover too much area with too little volume, we end up with weak spots that are very prone to breaking. However, keeping focused on less surface area keeps the core strong and stable, without the need of additional resources to hold it all together. Building a product is very similar, in that adding on too many features can make the whole experience less robust. Instead of splitting our time and money investments to push a dozen features through research, design, and development, it’s much more sensible to slim down to a core set of features and make them much more focused and solid. [pullquote]The overwhelming reason behind our decision to use one product over another is likely related to efficiency.[/pullquote] People care a lot about efficiency, especially when it comes to the products and services they use. The overwhelming reason behind our decision to use one product over another is likely related to efficiency. We turn to them for/as the solution to a problem we’re facing; and more often than not we don't really care about what else they have to offer. Having bloat that gets in the way of my individual core use-case for a product can turn me away faster than even bad aesthetics. Whatever solution out there that can get my work done the fastest without sacrificing quality or stability is usually my first choice, hands down.
In conclusionUX design has immense value, whether that be in a ROI, converting visitors into users, or simply selling more of the product we love. Ensuring that we take the time to not only make our work look good, but also function well and solve our users’ problems efficiently is critical to a robust user experience. As we’ve seen time and time again, it’s almost easy for new products or services to come into an already saturated market and rise to the top simply for offering a more efficient, better looking, or even cheaper alternative to their competitors. We’ve also seen fantastic products fail to sustain themselves simply due to a lack of planning and researching their industry and users. Getting UX design right takes a lot of research, a lot of logic-based decisions, and a lot of putting ourselves in our user’s shoes. But in the end, we almost always end up with a better solution than before, and happier customers and/or users as well. Featured image, UX interaction image via Shutterstock.
Dustin Cartwright is a UI/Web Designer & Front-End Developer from Baltimore, Maryland. He spends the majority of his time focusing on user experience research and is passionate about building things for the web.
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