If you’re a marketer or project manager responsible for delivering awesome digital products, you’ll ‘get’ the importance of user experience. Yet, while digital projects can frequently start out with a strong user-centric mantra; somewhere, somehow the UX element can get stripped back. Sometimes this happens instantly as a result of a single decision, sometimes it just gradually diminishes throughout the process, either way the results can be detrimental to a project’s full potential.

In this article, we identify some of these common scenarios, explain why it’s vital they’re managed properly, and show you how to get your user-centric project back on track.

Have any of the following thoughts about UX crossed your mind, or have you heard any of these comments from internal stakeholders?

At the briefing stage:

  1. “We want to have UX in the project but don’t want to / can’t afford to invest in user research”.  

Research and feedback from actual, real users is the most valuable investment you can ever make. While statistics can tell you what is happening or stakeholders can give their (subjective) opinion on why things are happening, the only true way of getting into the heads of your users is to ask them.  

While extensive one-to-one interviews or focus groups with each and every user type might be the perfect scenario, this isn’t always possible. However that shouldn’t mean that no insight is gathered. Focus on the key user groups and look at efficient ways to collect the research, that’s so much better than having no first hand information at all. As a minimum, remote interviews using video conferencing and screen sharing or user feedback via online surveys can be a cost effective way of learning the needs, wants, frustrations and expectations of your users if budget is a problem.

It is worth remembering that investing in research at the early stages of the project can actually save money down the line. Anticipating issues and avoiding problems is better than trying to retro-fix issues to make things right. However, it is also important to remember that gaining feedback from users is a valuable asset that should be part of an ongoing process to maintain continuous improvement even after launch.

2. “We want to have UX in the project but don’t have the time to run user research”

Similar to a ‘lack of budget’, a ‘lack of time’ is another false economy. Investing in UX research can help you identify and prioritise the parts that need fixing first. Making changes during or after the development stage can be both time consuming and costly. Ensuring that the end product is designed and built ‘right first time’ based on actual insight rather than assumptions is the quickest way to achieve a truly successful launch.

3.“We’ll do some UX by redesigning the User Interface (UI)”

The difference between UX and UI design is one of the most common misconceptions about the discipline. While UI design is one of the many tools that are used within the User Experience discipline, UI focuses on how the interface looks, the colours used, placement of text, images, buttons and menus which may improve the users’ experience.

UX is a much broader discipline concerned with the overall users’ experience. It considers the processes that the user goes through to get their task done, the sequence of actions they take, their emotional and sensory responses during their journey, and the final and lasting impressions of the interaction.

The research and insights are used to develop the UX designed wireframes, these then feed into the UI design stage. Whilst you might see some improvements by just redesigning an interface based on best practice, the only way to see the very best results is by investing in research and insights.

At the design and development stage:

4. “The UX recommendations will compromise the aesthetic design”

A good designer knows their job is about solving problems, just like a UX specialist, they too should want to make the online experience easy and intuitive. As Steve jobs once said, good design is about how something works, not just what it looks like.  If professional UX recommendations aren’t being implemented because they impact on a beautiful design, then it’s time to revisit and re-communicate your objectives to your designer and restate the key actions you want people to take when interacting with your product.

5. “The UX designer doesn’t need to be involved in amendments”

When changes are made during the design or development stages these can unintentionally damage the intended user experience. What might appear minor to an individual can have significant impact on the how users interact and respond to the experience. By involving a UX specialist throughout the whole project, including when amendments are suggested by stakeholders, designers and developers, this can ensure that the end result remains user centric without compromise.

6. “The UX recommendations will be extra work for the developers”

If you have invested the time to get the research and translate it into actionable insight to create a more effective and better performing product, you have essentially done the hard work already. The key is to ensure that developers don’t take shortcuts, remove or change recommendations which have been carefully considered.

Adding different call to actions or adjusting visible content for different user types may require additional code to be written, however this is something that could make a significant difference to the performance and / or conversion of your site. Reducing cognitive load for web users is a vital element of successful user-centric web design and therefore its essential that developers don’t take it upon themselves to change what has been recommended. The best way to avoid this is to involve the web developers along the project journey, ensure clear communication of what decisions have been made and why in relation to the end product design. Regular updates throughout the web development which involve the UX professional can help ensure the user centric project stays on track.

7. “The UX is inherent in the project, it doesn’t need a leader to manage it”

Whilst the UX strategy may have been defined at the project outset, and UX deliverables have been produced along the way, every project can be vulnerable to having the UX diluted. Without someone championing the user-centric ethos and driving the UX approach throughout the project, decisions can be made that slip under the radar which could potentially undermine the entire commitment to being user-centric. Changing how information appears on screen or the terminology used might be a snap decision by someone to speed up a part of the project, however there could be tangible repercussions on how this affects users and their behaviour.

8.“The UX recommendations don’t support SEO best practice”

This is a tricky one, what’s the point of great ux on a site if no-one can find it, similarly what is the use of driving lots of traffic that just bounce because of a poor experience? Increasingly good UX and SEO are going hand in hand. The more people enjoy a site, the more they return, dwell and recommend it, these are all important indicators to search engines that the site offers something of value to users and will be rewarded for it. There may be times when compromises need to be made, however generally if something is good for the user experience, it will be good for search engine optimisation.

In summary

Even with the best intentions, UX can get stripped back or diluted during the digital project management journey. It is up to marketers and digital project managers to ensure that if being user centric is at the heart of a project, UX doesn’t get short-cut or diminished along the way.

While there may be times when compromises needs to be made, the more solid your starting point, the better the end result will be. A successful user-centric project will require the commitment of time, budget and effort, however your investment in resources will, without fail, result in a better performing website, app, intranet or bespoke web application.

As champions of UX, we can help and support you to manage an insight-driven, user-centric and results-focused digital project. Whether you are seeking to increase e-commerce sales, generate more leads or increase user engagement, our team of experts can guide you through the process.

For more information contact us on 01256 329972.