5 Ways to Make Your Next Website Project More UX-Focused

in Strategy & Trends | by Erin O'Donnell

If you work in web development, you may be familiar with the following nagging anxieties: Will customers find value in this feature we spent way too many hours on? Did we solve their biggest frustrations? What are we leaving on the table?

These are the right questions to ask. However, to truly address them, you may need to make user experience design a more consistent practice within your organization.

Many organizations’ user experience practice is not as advanced as you might think. In my experience with companies of all sizes—from Fortune 100 companies to smaller, more nimble startups—I can say that at best, the most advanced are only at a stage 4 of 8 on the Nielsen Corporate Maturity scale. The vision and requirements for most website development projects are set based on internal intuition and whichever stakeholder is the squeakiest wheel.

Whether you’re just starting out in the field of UX, an advanced UX practitioner or simply an enthusiast for a more thoughtful, user-focused approach to website development, it can be easy to lose your true north—the needs of your users. The following five tips will help you bring your teams around to a more UX-focused way of thinking, and set you up to do some of the most rewarding work of your life.

1.Become a UX Evangelist

If you can’t passionately and succinctly explain why UX matters to your team, you’re going to have a hard time making a case for changing “the way we’ve always done it.” And if you’ve never worked on a project that prioritized getting input from actual users, which is far too common, it might be hard to understand why you should try a new approach. Here are a few selling points to share with project stakeholders:

Leadership

  • The research that goes into UX design leads to better business decisions. By getting to know your customers, how they feel and how they behave, you will become much more equipped to deliver solutions that meet their needs.
  • UX research increases confidence in the ROI of projects. When your product roadmaps are guided by the needs of actual users, it reduces the uncertainty of how projects will perform at launch and can significantly improve tangible results such as conversion rates.

Teams

  • UX design helps you do work that actually matters. Your teams will beam with pride when their next website launches, knowing actual user problems were solved and a better experience created for the company’s customers.
  • UX design elevates team credibility. You will set a new standard when you start to introduce user experience design to your company. Perks include: increased cross-functional collaboration and an entirely new level of strategic thinking, informed by stakeholder, market and user insights.

Individual

  • UX design empowers each team member. By utilizing UX design methods such as creating persona maps, performing user research and user testing, team members are empowered to  become better problem solvers, who are more empathetic to the needs of others. Additionally, your team will develop the confidence to speak up when they see a project going off the rails by losing sight of the users.

2. Start small—and start ASAP.

Developing the qualities of an advanced UX culture doesn’t happen overnight. If your company is just coming around to seeing the value of UX design, it’s important to adapt your rollout strategy to your company’s unique situation.

As the UX advocate or evangelist in your company, be aspirational and also pragmatic. In which areas are you struggling the most? What will add the most value? Once you’ve figured this out, it will be easier to identify a good starting place. Could your teams really benefit from understanding personas, learning how to do a good journey map, or incorporating time for user testing on your next website development project?

3. Leverage the people on the front line.

It’s important to remember that the user experience is more than your company’s digital presence—it’s the sum of all user interactions with your company or product and it all needs to work together. There is usually a treasure trove of information about your customers that already exists within your Sales and Support teams, if you’re willing to find it.

Your Sales teams are interacting with users daily and will gladly share the challenges users experience and what can be done to improve. Likewise, Support will be very familiar with the biggest, recurring pain points they’re hearing from customers—read more on this here. Remember, solutions to user problems can be found in unlikely places, so be sure to go in with an open mind and try your best not to become defensive.

Before kicking off your next website development project, spend some time with the call center, sales, help desk or customer service team. You’ll be amazed at what you can uncover to help refine your focus.

4. Use interactive exercises to build your UX skills as a team

There are some really fun exercises you can do as a team to help develop your UX skills. Some of the best ways to engage teams and make new concepts stick is to use short, interactive activities. These exercises teach teams how to work within constraints, think of multiple ways to solve a problem, listen without passing their own judgement or bias and connect the dots between seemingly unrelated problems.

These skills are essential to a UX-focused website development process and will leave your team energized to tackle even the toughest challenges.

5. Remember: UX is never over.

In order to maintain a website that consistently delivers a good or great user experience, you must stay attuned to user behaviors and needs. This includes the basics such as a regular cadence of reviewing website analytics for performance and trends. Continue to have conversations with your Sales and Support teams. Bonus points for getting out into the field to speak with actual users.

User experience design isn’t always easy work, but it’s always worth it. Be a brave catalyst for change and push your team towards UX-focused development.

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ARCHIVE: 2017 Digital Trends Report