Five Ways to Strengthen Your In-house UX Movement
by Ali Carmichael, Managing Director and Owner

Five Ways to Strengthen Your In-house UX Movement

What’s your biggest UX challenge, and why? Who is the biggest advocate for the user in your organisation? These are some of the questions we sought to understand through our 2021 Insider Insights Survey. Having looked through the insight and read the report, here is my perspective on the results, and some actions that might be taken.

It is encouraging to see the data revealing that, from Directors to marketing to those with a specific UX title, people continue to be interested in, and are talking about, user experience. Conversations regarding UX practice that go beyond the “digital” team is a good sign that, for some, it is being owned and championed in all aspects of organisations.

The key message from the report for me is the often-felt frustration by UX practitioners of obtaining buy-in from up the chain. Broadly, senior leaders are not considering the true value of UX, with conversations quickly focusing on UX as a means to more sales and higher conversion rates.

Of our survey respondents, this concern is felt mostly by those working in digital or specific UX roles, who, it looks like, are coming up against reasons not to undertake good UX practice regularly.

UX is important until the business needs disagree

This quote from a survey respondent is a good example of the challenge UX practitioners are up against. My take is that business leaders want happy customers and staff, and while many know the need to focus on customer and user experience at a head level, they are not embodying it at an intrinsic heart level.

There is a sense from the survey that many respondents are chomping at the bit to do more. However, as UX is often dealt with on a project-by-project basis, many respondents are struggling to include all but the very basic user data collation tools.

UX is an essential, not a luxury

ROI is mentioned regularly by survey respondents, often in reaction to why there is not as much buy-in as they would like. It is not that UX doesn’t return on its investment, it is that UX goes beyond the spreadsheet and, therefore, those trying to sell it in are focused more on improving user experience, and less on increasing income for their employer. Of course, the two go hand-in-hand, but the focus is different.

If, like many of our respondents, you are feeling frustrated at the lack of UX opportunities in your role, what can you do? It requires some tenacity. Here are five ways to bolster your in-house UX movement:

1. Go beyond the project

Whilst UX is fighting to be included in a project’s budget, based on the sentiment from our survey results, it is always at risk of being de-scoped as soon as time and budget look stretched.

Take advantage of budget afforded you but also change your perspective beyond UX being a project need. UX is integral to a human-centred ethos and should be considered as an essential ally to the business.

If you can think with this broader mindset, more opportunities will present themselves, and winning a wee bit of UX budget is never assumed as ‘job done’.

2. Expand on ROI

It is important to note that UX delivers a financial return on investment. However, to encourage a broader conversation, we must look beyond money and profit. It is an obvious question for a senior leader to simply ask, “what is the ROI?”, but I feel we have failed in our message if this is the immediate question.

Do your homework. Begin with your company’s values. It is unlikely that the values sworn in by the business include ‘make more money’ or ‘cover thy back’, so absorb the values and look at where a people-centric approach ties in. This forms the basis of your ongoing conversation to help your company to live and breathe its values. You can share the data and financial gain as you start small in #4.

Pay attention to what your MD/CEO is saying. Always read their articles and, if available, take notes on what they say in the annual report. Connect this to your internal UX conversations and presentations.

3. Gather a team

This is not a project team. This is a team of people in your organisation who ‘get it’ and are already interested in human centredness, directly or indirectly. These are your colleagues who believe what you believe. They may not be where you are expecting them. They may be busy serving customers in your contact centre team. They may be a mid-level manager in a neighbouring department.

Be alert to and connect with them; get a conversation going with them, invite more people in. Create an informal monthly get together. The more people you have involved and talking about it the more momentum will spread. Who else in your organisation is vocal about the customer?

4. Start small and measure

Here is where to think more like a senior leader with a UX hat on. Start small and demonstrate the value. As part of your next project pick out a specific micro aspect of the user journey that needs improving and gather the metrics. Begin with this data to present what is currently happening.

Whether you have budget or not (you might need to do this in your own time), run a few usability tests through the journey to demonstrate why. Use the insight from this observational research to generate one or two recommendations. Remember to invite people from your team #2 above to help, to watch, to take notes, to discuss ideas. Involve them somehow.

Now is the time to have your recommendation implemented, which might be as a split A/B test, to assess its value. You should see an improvement in the data, which you can now drop into a case study, with video and data, to share the before and after with the business. This micro-investment has seen results, imagine what a program of UX work could deliver?

5. Share, share, share

You’ll need to put yourself, and your report, out there. Be sure to relate your findings to the expanded ROI from #2, get your team (#3) involved, and be prepared to present this multiple times. The more colleagues you share it with, see if you can add more to your team. Invite everyone to attend your next informal monthly get together.

In your next project, or company meeting, present this output as a business case and reignite the conversations around user experience and human-centred design. Your superiors want to see someone who is proactive; will take ownership, and will help to make them look good. When you demonstrate return through action, senior leaders will be better placed to acknowledge the wider positives UX will bring to their strategy and tactics.

It is just the beginning.

The right thing to do

As you can probably tell, this goes beyond a job description. However, when I look back at clients who have created somewhat of a digital culture around UX within their company, all have put in the effort beyond delivering on their role responsibilities. If you feel this is not you, maybe there is someone in your organisation who is. How can you help them?

UX returns on its investment. Sound UX practice that helps to design digital interfaces that are intuitive for users will produce superior products. It might not always be the quick win your senior leaders demand (though do put focus on #4 above), but will deliver greater success and higher customer sentiment over the long term.

Let me know if this is a journey you are on, or just beginning. I’d welcome your thoughts and experience of your process, and any feedback on these ideas.

Be assured, you are not alone on this quest.

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UX Consultant Emma Peters

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