How valuable is your product work… really?

We often hear complaints from designers and businesses of ‘they don’t understand the value of UX…’

When quizzed, the response is usually ‘it’ll provide a better user experience… and that’s got to make the product better and therefore worth more.’

That’s a fine hypothesis. But it’s not a business case.

To the business, the product exists for a commercial reason. You may LOVE your Nike trainers, but though you might want to BELIEVE they make them out of love, it’s probably more weighted to a commercial goal.

Whether it’s a direct, obvious one, like say Boots e-commerce website, or a less obvious one such as the Carling ‘virtual pint’ app of a few years back, somewhere that product has a number (or numbers) against it. It has a business intent on which it has to deliver.

In order to truly understand the value of what we are delivering, we need to work with the business to understand its operational KPIs and to understand the value of what it is that we are providing (the ROI).

Those KPIs can be broken down into many metrics which measure contribution to the KPI. So for instance, let’s assume a few things about the examples above:

The Boots model relies on a few customer types shopping in a couple of core ways: online and offline. So we’re looking primarily at the online audience, but with an understanding that inevitably those same customers often shop in store as well. We know this through research, and we can measure this through identifying the customer online through their account and in-store through their advantage card. So overall, we can also understand customer value.

Given Boots’ structure, the online team and offline team are probably separate divisions, and as such each respond to a KPI of ‘total sales’. That’ll be split Online/Offline. And have a target against it. So that’s a number we are directly responsible to. We then look to three metrics: Customers coming to the site, (unique visits), Conversions and Drop outs. Each of those will have a current number, and we need to look for opportunities to change each. Some of them (unique visits) we can affect less-easily, but we can affect them in terms of repeat visits. So by analysing the funnel, we need to look to increase unique visits, increase conversions and the flip side of that is reduced drop-outs.

Simple eh?

This means we’d know where to focus designing development effort. And maybe NOT in the cool whizzy carousel we saw on Nike. (We all know what we’re saying here).

What about Carling’s app? Well, that was most likely a brand awareness and engagement play. Pure and simple. It’s the part of the journey to get people to buy. A clever marketing ploy. But again, ‘engagement’ will have a  number against it and be measurable. And you’ve got to hope (for Carling) that the app had a positive effect on this. And guess what? That number should, if % of conversions stays the same, result in more sales.

So the point here is that design and development focus, decisions and outputs should be based on an understanding of their value to the business – to the numbers that matter. And within THAT set, do the right thing for the customer. This doesn’t preclude creating innovative, ground breaking experiences. In fact, if along the way you can prove a business value against something which is outside of your project remit, propose it. Clients generally respond really well to additional business value.

Within this, ALL of your usual ‘User Centred Design/Development’ still applies. You just know where to focus it. I’ll go into UCD KPIs in another article.

So when we leave a project, delivered successfully, we should be given the client the projected performance, and a framework with which to measure the actual performance against that. And we can, to an extent, depending on the client relationship, project this into pitches also. And we find a well-grounded projection of the value we’ll add only helps clients to feel like we understand them, their customers, and their needs. It’s a pretty solid base to be batting from.

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