To remain competitive, companies should invest in UX rather than cutting it to reduce costs
Intentional user experience (UX) research, design and development is a regular causality of project cost cutting, but successful companies avoid doing this and rather make an investment in UX.
Companies that cut UX investment in economic downturns are short-sighted, and put themselves at risk. But UX isn’t a “luxury.” It’s a necessity. In this article we will talk about why UX is worth investing in, even during hard times.
Why companies tend to cut UX budgets from projects (or, why companies don’t invest in UX)
There may be multiple, complex reasons for companies to stop investing in UX, from budget tightening and resources constraints to layoffs. The main reasons why companies pause or stop investing in UX usually boils down to two issues:
- Identifying issues
- Making design changes
- Developing and deploying changes
- Measuring success
Why shouldn’t you cut the UX budget?
UX is often misunderstood as visual, whether that be the look and feel of website, platform, or a product. While aesthetics are part of UX, UX designers focus on the entire experienced with the product. This includes putting the user at ease, helping them complete a task, and even delighting them so they enjoy using the product.
During the UX design process, designers build trust by improving satisfaction and reducing friction for the user while they complete a task.
Positive experiences benefit more than users. A strong UX design process could lead to happier employees and happier bottom lines.
How much time and money is lost when a designer is not part of the process? A lot.
Designers can help ensure that what’s actually developed is closer to what the users actually need.
By employing UX early in the life of the project (from the start until development handoff), you can clearly define what usability requirements and features are up-front and avoid unnecessary rework, for all parties involved.
Reduce scope creep
Widely known as scope creep, correcting a problem or requirement increases over a project lifecycle. We can also see this in the 1:10:100 rule. Correcting a problem at the development stage is 10 times more expensive than fixing the same problem during the UX design phase. It is 100 times more expensive to fix after deployment.
So, why not implement UX from the get-go?
Get requirements right
Of the top 12 reasons that projects fail (defined by IEEE), three are directly related to user experience or user-centered design work. They are
- badly defined requirements
- poor communication among customers, developers, and users, and
- stakeholder politics.
We can break down a little bit more into some common mistakes that happen without proper UX work:
- Incorrect assumptions about user behavior
- Features that confuse or frustrate the users
- Navigations that end up your users stuck or lost
- Design choices made without any user guidance
- New features that do not solve current user problems
These common problems can be solved before the development phase if the product team can go through a proper UX design phase, identify actual user problems through research and communicate with developers early on. Including developers and product managers during the design phase ensures that design decisions and ideas are validated up-front, and will also help with performance bottlenecks with prototyping.
Polsource mentions the following as other measurements can be improved by UX investment:
- Decreased development time/cost
- Decreased maintenance cost
- Decreased support costs
- Decreased documentation cost
- Decreased user training time
- Decreased time to proficiency
- Decreased user error reports
- Decreased handle times
- Increased self service
- Increased customer satisfaction scores
- Increased customer retention
- Increased customer retention
In general, UX investments more than pay for themselves by providing a unified project direction. If you want to a rundown of how the ROI of user experience works, we recommend you watch this video by Dr. Weinschenk. For more detailed information on ROI, take a look at the calculators from the Human Factors Institute.
What can companies do?
If your company still needs to cut budget, or can not invest in an entirely new product / UX team, make sure to use external help. This includes using consultants, freelancers, advisors, or outsourcing UX work to an agency.
While it is more common to find agencies that include UX among many other marketing and advertising options, there are clear benefits to outsourcing to a specialized UX agency. In addition to expertise that may be lacking in agencies that provide all services, it’s easier for UX agencies to be a partner for companies and provide clear answers for questions about users.
Let’s take an example used by Peter Ramsey in his pitch deck. Imagine that after clicking on a Facebook ad, only 20 percent of your users return daily. You’ve lost 80 percent of potential users in between.
Identifying user frictions and making small improvements throughout can cause meaningful impact. It’s possible to raise the percentage of retained users through to the next process. If successfully done, you should see an overall improvement in the percentage of users who return daily. UX design makes it possible to focus on each user stage independently.
Sales and marketing can pour more people into the funnel at the beginning, but unless you fix your leaky funnel, you will only create more waste.
Let your developers and programmers focus on rework through the UX design process to save time and money later!