Why businesses need to look at UX as a must-have investment

19 Mar 2018

UX design is a business fundamental. Image: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock

Lisa Jewell of UXTraining outlines why embracing UX is a worthwhile undertaking.

If you’ve worked on design-led projects, you probably know the benefits of UX already.

But what if you’re working in a business that has yet to embrace UX? Is your management sceptical that it’s worth the time, effort or money?

They may think UX is a ‘nice-to-have’ and not a ‘must-have’. Here are some points to prove it’s well worth the investment.

UX saves you money

UX is a problem-solving discipline. At its heart, it’s about building products that solve customer problems. If your product doesn’t solve problems, or doesn’t solve them efficiently, it will need to be reworked.

This costs time and money, and it’s estimated that a mind-boggling 50pc of a developer’s time is spent on avoidable rework. That is, work that could have been avoided if the software had been designed properly the first time.

One study (reported in Usability: A Business Case) has estimated that fixing issues after development can be up to 100 times more expensive than fixing them during design.

The same study shows that, on average, programmers spend nearly half their time on a project reworking issues that were avoidable. Getting it right from the start can save those labour costs.

In a less direct way, getting it right from the start can help reduce employee churn. Reworking avoidable issues is a thankless task, and doing so regularly drains morale. Keep your precious developers motivated with meaningful work, not grunt work. (For ways to retain developers, check out this article.)

Investing in UX can also help reduce other costs including customer support and training costs (see Usability: A Business Case for more on this).

Well designed software should be intuitive. Users shouldn’t need to make a call or send an email to figure something out. It means you can put less resources into manning customer service and more into other areas of your business.

UX increases your sales

“The impact of UX is crystal clear: the more satisfied your users are, the more likely they are to do whatever it is you are encouraging,” said Abby Covert, information architect and author of How to Make Sense of Any Mess.

If you are encouraging users to buy products, UX will get them to do more of that, increasing your sales.

There are no concrete metrics as to how much UX can increase your revenue (it’s not as linear or as easy to measure as, say, pay-per-click). Websites and apps are complex products with many variables, and companies that practise UX don’t tend to create a UX version and a non-UX version of products for comparison. That said, there is compelling evidence that good design can increase sales.

One often quoted statistic is that every dollar spent in UX brings in between $2 and $100 in return (this stat originated in Roger Pressman’s classic textbook, Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach). Increasingly, the evidence is pointing towards the upper end of that scale.

In 2016, the Future of Design in Start-Ups survey found that companies with the highest investment in UX (referred to as ‘design unicorns’) saw their sales increase by 75pc. Other companies, who had invested less in UX, still saw their sales increase by 60pc. These are huge numbers.

Alternatively, If you aren’t putting your user at the heart of your design, your sales can suddenly start to go in the wrong direction – as Marks & Spencer found out when they launched their new website in 2014. The site was two years in development but, after its launch, the company had an 8pc decrease in online sales and some very frustrated users. 

A fresh look and feel was well overdue, but the focus on aesthetic design was not matched with a corresponding focus on UX design. Users had difficulties with navigation, registration, the shopping cart and checkout to name but a few problems (check out this post by Econsultancy for an interesting take on the site’s usability issues). All of these are things you clearly don’t want to happen with an e-commerce website.

UX increases customer loyalty

A whopping 88pc of online consumers are less likely to return to a website after a bad experience, according to a Gomez report, Why Web Performance Matters.

More than a third will tell others about their disappointing experience.

Well-designed software increases the probability of users solving their problems with ease, thus becoming repeat users and bringing others along too. This will also filter through to your brand reputation.

The Future of Design in Start-Ups survey found that the more a company invested in and focused on design, the higher their customer retention and engagement rates were.

UX helps you be competitive

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the companies that heavily invest in UX are market leaders and continue to grow – Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, the list goes on.

These companies invest in UX because it delivers better products, happier customers, motivated employees and reduced development costs. All sources of competitive advantage.

Research by Forrester shows that, when compared to their peers, the top 10 companies leading in customer experience outperformed the S&P index with more than triple the returns.

In your own competitive market, well-crafted products that help customers get the job done efficiently is one way to help you stand out from the pack.

Driven by Apple et al, customers’ expectations in terms of user experience will continue to grow. If you’re not paying attention to the needs of your users but your competitors are, you’ll soon start to see the negative effects on your business.

As Steve Krug sums up in Don’t Make Me Think, “You can get away with a site that people muddle through only until someone builds one down the street that makes them feel smart.”

By Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is content manager for UXTraining.com, a specialist provider of user experience and design thinking training. Based in Dublin, it delivers classroom-based training across Europe and North America and its online training programme has students across the globe. Its mission is to help organisations, teams and individuals make better software and services through user-centred design.

A version of this article originally appeared on the UXTraining.com blog.