The value of UX design in business: how to improve results with a user-centred vision

Design is a key element in today’s business world, and its impact on improving an organisation’s results cannot be underestimated. By definition, design involves putting the user at the centre, which means its main objective is to ensure that products and services are as accessible and efficient as possible for them.

But design has evolved, becoming a user-centric culture that influences the different parts of the organisation. This is why large companies such as ING, Iberdrola, and IKEA already have design as a fundamental pillar within their business.

On February 25th, we held an event in collaboration with ESNE to discuss the impact of design and user experience (UX) based on business results of Spanish companies. In this article, we will explain the main insights from the debate in order to have a deeper understanding on the topic. G

UX Design: Why is it so important?

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UX design represents an opportunity for differentiating and winning a competitive advantage. Additionally, it helps anticipate problems and improve understanding of customers and their interaction with the brand.

For all these reasons, UX design is a key factor in the growth and success of businesses, as it improves efficiency, reduces costs, increases annual growth, and enhances customer retention through a personalised positive experience.

Source: Future of Design, NEA, 2016.

UX Culture: A User-Centred Mentality

UX design is no longer a specific department or just a matter for experts. Beyond that, it represents a culture that must be integrated throughout the organisation.

But this hasn’t always been the case. Design departments have undergone a major evolution in recent years. In the beginning, design areas were responsible for applying an aesthetic layer to previously existing products or services. Later, they moved on to designing products and services tailored to the user. Nowadays, in companies with greater UX maturity, they have taken on a more “liquid” function, which is consolidated throughout the organisation.

However, the internal structure of each company is different. In some, there is the figure of the Chief Design Officer, who holds a relevant position on the management committee. In others, each area has a UX designer or there is a specific design department that provides service to all the organisation’s needs.

Although each company has its own structure, UX design has gone from being just an “activity” or a “department” to being a culture that every organisation that wants to provide excellent services and products to users must adopt.

How to drive UX culture in your organisation?

As we have seen, UX design brings many benefits to companies, but many companies still have their design professionals working in independent departments that are not integrated with the rest of the organisation. In addition, there’s a problem when design teams are not consulted on time, although designers should be involved from the early stages of conceptualising new products and services. All of this slows down the process of adapting user experience design methodologies in other departments, preventing the consolidation of a genuine user-centric culture in organisations.

Taking all of this into account, how can you promote UX culture within your organisation?

Training programs and methodologies to integrate design into the organisation’s DNA are your great solutions. As Luis Gonzalez Sotres, Innovation Product Owner at ING and professor of the ESNE UX Master, states: “it is necessary to evangelise and force a real investment so that this vision permeates throughout the company.”

Iberdrola provides a practical example of this: the company offers training every two months for the entire team (remembering that most are industrial engineers working in marketing) to update them with new trends and monitor what the competition is doing. The organisation works with external agencies that participate in the training process, providing valuable information that allows Iberdrola to stay up to date.

Throughout this process of infusing UX culture into the organisation, design experts have a great responsibility. Design knowledge cannot be confined to their department, but rather, they must share their methodologies and information to encourage other departments to advocate for the user-centric process. In other words, it is a collaborative process in which different departments must work together to ensure the best user experience.

“A major achievement of the design area has been it’s ability to go from being a niche area to permeating the entire organisation, demonstrating that the UX vision has a positive impact on the business.” -Kike Valdenebro, Head of Design de Good Rebels

Let’s talk numbers: Those that are not accounts, are just stories?

Improving user experience is not the only task of design experts. Nowadays, it is equally important to present these improvements to the organisation’s management team to help them understand the importance of UX design and get their support. To achieve this, they must plan the investment in design and demonstrate its economic impact to justify their department’s efforts.

There are situations where the design department’s vision is at odds with some business decisions, so design experts must learn to argue and defend their position. Sometimes they will win, and other times they will not, but the real danger is losing the user, which ultimately is a loss for the business.

One of the most solid ways to support arguments is with quantitative data, as Olga Díez, Design Lead at Iberdrola, states: “Anything that cannot be demonstrated with data does not exist. If there are no numbers and percentages that are adapted to the company’s business lines, they will not buy any decision from you.”

But data alone is not enough, we need to know what is behind the data. It is not only about knowing the “what?” but analysing the “why?” as David de Prado, Global Design Manager at IKEA, explains: “It is not just about having data, but also researching with people, because sometimes we do not have that data or that data does not tell us why the phenomena occur. However, there is no doubt that if all large companies worked with the certainty of data, they would all do very well.”

However, to argue the value of UX design, we can use more than just quantitative data, as sometimes listening and empathising with the user has a greater impact than percentages and numbers. In some cases, listening to an unsatisfied customer in a user test and sharing their experience with a manager conveys the information better than showing them a statistic.