“Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.”

— Robert L. Peters

It’s no surprise that large organizations are ushering in a radical functional change by inching closer towards a design-centric style of management. Mind you, the ‘design’ here transcends aesthetics, touching upon applying the principles to the way people function.

Design thinking has permeated industries as a result of the ever-increasing complexity of modern businesses which are mostly tech-reliant. This complexity manifests variably, for instance, raising the intuitiveness of a content management system or an HR portal. Regardless of the complexity at hand, a common thread binding these organizations is that the people working there need assistance in simplifying them. They deserve their everyday interactions with operating systems to be simple, efficient, and perhaps delightful. The following quote by Herbert Simon manages to perfectly illustrate the point.

The act of design devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.

Noticeably, organizations refraining from harnessing the power of User Experience (UX) design are usually guilty of rendering equally apathetic services and products. While the consensus remains that software systems ought to be user-friendly and intuitive, companies tend to be hesitant in investing the requisite time and resources it takes to build something compelling. It is up to the design advocates then, to guide them into incorporating design principles throughout and helping them realize the importance of UI UX design and its impact on the company as a whole.

For one thing, let’s look at how we define the concept of user experience. One of the most popular definitions of UX is, “User Experience refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service. It includes the practical, experiential, effective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human-computer interaction and product ownership.” In the case of a layman, this definition is nothing but technical mumbo-jumbo.

UI design is not UX design, and certainly not graphic design

While UI UX best practices are all about simplifying everything for users, it is often lost in jargon. Given how most organizations, as well as individuals, mistake user experience for UI design, the design is usually based on assumptions rather than actual research or user’s journey. Let us take a look at some of the most common sentiments in this regard:

“UX design is another way of saying graphic design”

“You will helplessly watch as anyone who’s once designed their aunt’s church’s Web site using Wix and MS Paint slaps your hard-earned UX label on their resumes.”

“It’s tempting to just overwhelm them with beauty”

“Employers often don’t understand that UX encompasses a range of disciplines and one person can’t/shouldn’t do it all.”

Every product that is designed and labeled with ‘UX’ without user research or usability testing, is adversely affecting the functionality and misrepresenting UI UX services at its core.

So what is user experience then?

It is just that, the experience of a user.

A “UX designer” will not hand you prototypes necessarily. The role of a UX designer is to undertake user research and conceptualize a design that is the best fit for the purpose of the product to the user. They may not design the final product at all. Your UX designer will provide you with invaluable insights on your users and what suits them the best to improve the usability of your product tremendously.

Permeating UX at an organizational level

A major roadblock that pertains to B2B enterprises mainly is that any new software tends to be based on the extant version in the given industry, with minor upgrades. It tends to typically follow the tenet ‘why fix what isn’t broken?’. Needless to say, this is a highly unfortunate situation for users to be in. Working with software that employs poor UX opens up possibilities of serious security threats brought upon by human errors. In the healthcare field, these errors can result in life-threatening situations for patients; a financial institution’s database managers using a work-around may increase vulnerability to a cyber-attack; the slightest errors made in data entry within an insurance company can lead to misguided decisions.

A better user experience design holds the key to helping companies deal with a vast range of challenges.

Now, cut to the inclusion of experience design. Well-thought-out interfaces are nothing short of magical. Good design is simple, intuitive, and responsive – users need not be taught to use it. It holds the key to making employees feel self-sufficient and smart. A better user experience design, thus, holds the key to helping companies deal with a vast range of challenges.

Large businesses like IBM and GE have latched on to the fact that software is indispensable to their line of work and are concurrently coming to terms with the extraordinary levels of complexity they must manage. Experience design, for them, is indeed an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing. It can no more be relegated as an extra, it needs to be a core competence.

According to the Design Management Institute’s Design Value Index, design-driven companies have maintained a significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P 500 by an extraordinary 219% over the past ten years.

Making your organization UX-friendly

Getting started

For a solution to be effective enough, it is imperative that the problems be identified correctly. So, if you encounter these listed problems in your organization, therein lies a business case to initiate UX-friendly solutions.

  1. Non-standardized experience across digital and physical products
  2. Proliferation of third-party tools
  3. Poor system adoption
  4. Diminished user productivity
  5. Frequent errors in performance
  6. Increasing requests for support
  7. Ever-increasing change requests
  8. Extensive training requests from users

The presence of these problems warrants an action towards getting started with your UX initiative. You can take the first step by seeking a sound UX advisor to guide you through the transition and transformation.

UXifying your Business

There are a few key principles and tasks that any UX-driven organization functions on. These are –

  1. Following an industry-chartered UX philosophy, methodology, and vision.
  2. Achieving common business goals through collaboration across departments.
  3. Encouraging employees to champion the cause of design thinking and empathy in their everyday work.
  4. A consistent and ongoing focus on an organization-wide understanding of target users, their needs, goals, and motivations.
  5. Enabling comprehensive training sessions and workshops towards helping employees realize and drive forward the company’s UX vision.

An institutional focus on experience design and design thinking will create friendlier and trustworthy technology. The decisions made by using these principles would result in products and services that are relatable and emotionally resonant. The resultant workplace will be one where employees are empowered contributors. It would be perceptive of changing business dynamics and be swiftly adaptable. This empathetic approach would drive forward a human-centric line of functioning to any business.