Until recently, everyday objects and business tools were defined by technology, and technology was largely determined by engineers.
Consider the telephone. From Alexander Graham Bell’s first experiments, up until the moment Steve Jobs entered the scene, telephone design meant making the product look attractive – and little more.
For most of human history engineers have created increasingly complex systems that relied on equally complex interfaces to function. User experience (UX) design only became an issue when the systems became too complicated for users to reliably navigate.
The best example of this is the computer. In 1943, Thomas J. Watson of IBM said there was a global market for “maybe five computers”. Mid-century computers were too large, too expensive, and too difficult for any average consumer to run, let alone offer predictions that the average American household would possess 13 similar devices of them half a century later.
UX design was instrumental in solving the business problems posed by these highly engineered devices. It remains one of the most important tool sets for solving business challenges today.
What Business Challenges Does UX Solve?
UX design is responsible for making highly sophisticated systems work flawlessly, and meet user’s expectations. This is an important caveat because the more intricate a system is, the higher the chances of something going wrong.
1. Disrupting Long-Established Industries
Cengage Learning’s story begins as a respectable textbook publisher. But the company’s leaders realized that forcing students to haul around gigantic textbooks wasn’t a vision for the future. They looked to services like Amazon’s Kindle and realized that students need the same thing for their academic texts.
It quickly became clear there were two major challenges to their idea – and that others had tried to address those problems before, with little success.
First, the platform must contain features that correspond to the way students study. It must simplify note taking and flash-card generation while improving the effectiveness of study time. Second, teachers need to be able to seamlessly set up courses, manage users, and assign work through the platform.
Both of these are UX challenges. The right UX must include these features to result in a successful product.
2. Resolving Niche Market Pain Points
Hisably is a useful all-in-one management tool designed for convenience stores. It combines accounting, inventory, and shift management in a single cloud-based platform that’s easy for convenience store owners to use.
Anyone who has visited a small-town family-run convenience store knows they don’t tend to brim with technological innovation. It’s not uncommon to see older store owners tracking sales on paper ledgers.
The team behind Hisably focused on UX to deliver a streamlined tool that specifically addresses convenience store pain points. For example, no other inventory program features a solution for scanning and verifying lottery tickets – Hisably’s lottery scanning feature improves the UX for non-technical store owners.
3. Improving Conversions and Stopping Drop-Off
Skydeo encountered a difficult problem early after its release. Prospective customers liked the idea of the product but couldn’t effectively use it without asking an expert for hands-on assistance.
As a solution for transforming anonymous mobile data into accurately segmented marketing data, Skydeo is an impressive and sophisticated tool. At the outset, its value relied on manual data manipulation by Skydeo employees, which got in the way of generating a positive UX.
Unfortunately, there is no way to draw more efficiency out of Skydeo with current technology. The customer will have to work to get results out of it. But UX development can keep the user at the center of each process and more clearly delineate the necessary hierarchy of processes the application runs on.
By turning the application itself into a more linear, tutorial-like experience, it’s possible to ground users in a small number of predictable steps and then build up from there. Enhancing the flow of the application experience leads to better demo results and higher conversions.
Understand the Underlying Value of Your Product
The key to solving business challenges with UX design is understanding the underlying value of the product itself. When you are absolutely certain about your vision for a product and you know what it is supposed to do, finding ways to streamline that process becomes simple.
Part of this process includes understanding your customers and creating user personas that reflect the values they bring to the table. If you know who your customers are and what problems they wish to solve, UX design becomes a manageable matter of getting them from point A to point B as efficiently as possible.