The First UX Project

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Amy Hilman has written an outstanding article with the boxes and arrows staff about how to get that first UX (User Experience) project started at your company. Most companies don’t include user experience (UX) research as a key part of their product development process. But all companies will benefit from it.

UX is Valuable

Amy’s article doesn’t talk too much about why UX (user experience) is an important element of projects – but that’s ok. Her audience at boxes and arrows is UX professionals, so people already know it is good. The challenge is to convince other people that it is tactically good. She does a great job of showing an ROI based approach to justifying UX investment on a particular project.

She summarizes that UX investments result in better products – yielding higher sales, and in improved team efficiency – yielding lower costs (and faster development). She immediately then focuses on the why is UX good for my project angle:

For example, if one of the primary initiatives company-wide is to reduce costs by reducing the number of tech support calls, make one of your primary UX goals for the next release improved usability and a higher rate of self-support. Get a current baseline for how many tech support calls are being received on the current product and at the end of your project do a comparative analysis for the reduction in tech support calls.

This approach can’t be over-emphasized. At a previous employer, we struggled with figuring out how to incorporate and justify investment in usability tests, visual and interaction design, and information architecture. During the dot-bomb days, the qualitative arguments were sufficient to get a lot of people doing great work on many projects. Over time, budget constraints ended up reducing staffing of UX roles – the company (my former employer) treated UX as a cost-center. So cost-cutting caused a loss of the great inputs – and ultimately the great people. We (both the UX professionals, and me, a UX-fanboy) failed to provide compelling financial arguments for internal investment. We also failed to convince customers why they should invest in UX on custom projects. The company never got out of the “cost center” mindset.

Practical Advice

Amy also points out some very practical tips for the UX professional who successfully gets the opportunity to make those products better, including:

  • Don’t allow yourself to get stretched too thin across projects.
  • Don’t try and move too fast or push too far.
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself and your projects.

Really great advice (and more in the article).

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