These days, digital products are getting significantly better and easier to use. But this is not true for everyone. Development-centric firms still tend to make sites, apps, and software that are difficult to use and frustrate modern users.

To these companies, user experience (UX) can be a foreign notion, something lurking in a mysterious, magic black box. It’s a vaguely visual ingredient added after real work is complete. This view limits understanding of the value of robust UX. It certainly hinders organizations’ ability to recognize a need for it.

Don Quixote and the UX Windmill

If you work at such a place, you’re in a bit of a pickle. How do you help your company build better experiences for their users? How do you convince them to want it in the first place?

To be perfectly blunt, you do not.

Have you ever tried teaching someone uninterested in learning? Ever tried pursuing someone uninterested in you? Familiar with Don Quixote’s fabled, preposterous windmill attack? Changing entrenched attitudes can feel very much like this.

You can do precious little to transform an organization devoted to the development status quo and determined to avoid user-centered approaches. Only when senior leaders earnestly desire exceptional UX in all customer interactions will their organizations make better digital products.

Now that expectations have been properly set, what can be done?

Opening the Black Box

Even inside the most inflexible, ossified companies, you can make some progress. It just doesn’t come from forced education or pleading. It comes from proving and doing.

Take initiative.
Don’t wait for executives to demand better user experiences. Assume they will never ask for it. Assume they will never understand it. You must be the one to act.

Think of UX as an essential part of development, not an additive.
Consider solid user experience as a core development requirement, something that can’t be done without. After all, great functionality is pointless if people are constantly frustrated, delayed, inefficient, and unproductive when using it. You are not pursuing a buzzword. You are simply pursing quality. When UX is a key measure of product or service excellence, you must pay attention to it at every stage of your project.

Increase your knowledge.
The user experience discipline is fascinating and eye-opening. Dive right in. Start with a simple, super-easy reading list. Once you’re grounded in the basics, learn everything you can about user testing. It’s your essential path forward.

Find allies.
You are not alone. Others in your organization want to create better user experiences. Find them. Talk about what you’ve learned. Someone on your team or in your organization will be interested. Before long, a small, subversive UX team will be ready to work.

Try something new and test it.
Pick a project or product feature. Try something new with it and test it with real users. You could make something as simple as a low-fidelity prototype. See if your ideas hold up to use. Keep in mind:

  • Test properly. Follow the best practices you’ve learned do date. You have no excuse. The web is full of free user testing education resources. Books and tools are legion.
  • Choose wisely. Pick a feature or product with easily measured value and recognized return on investment. Even better, choose a mission-critical product.
  • Document everything. Keep track of your results. Think spreadsheets and video. You are in the data business, presenting empirical results. You want proof, not opinion.
  • Invite others. Once you are confident performing user tests, invite others to observe. Start with developers and business analysts. Then move to stakeholders, managers, and leaders. When they begin to see users struggle, you’ll find convincing them much easier.

Expand your circle of influence.
Over time, draw more like-minded people into your user-testing orbit and grass-roots group. This is often how UX teams are formed. You may even find yourself in charge.

Demystifying UX

Most development-centered firms are not ready to embrace a user experience mindset. Don’t let that stop you. Honestly, what do you have to lose?

Some companies, however, do express interest (even if only a vague sense of the UX problem). If so, you’re in business. Find leaders who want to make better user experiences. Show them what you’ve been doing. Point them to articles that speak directly to them.

If you’ve taken some of the steps above, you’ll be ready to help demystify the contents of the UX black box and get your organization started on its journey to making better digital products.

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About truematter

Our team has been doing the real work of user experience since the earliest days of the commercial web. We’re out to make your digital products a whole lot better.

Take heart! Every organization that cares deeply about user experiences was once completely new to the concept.

Author: @ExperienceDean
Editor: @baileysendsword
Graphic: @djosephmachado