Managing the needs of your users and your business at the same time can be a challenge. However, it is important to find a strategy that works for both types of stakeholder, because managing both is crucial to the future health and success of your business.
As we’ve discussed a number of times in the past, it’s important for business managers to take a user-centric approach to their business activities.
The quest for growth is an intrinsic and important aspect of business, but it can be detrimental if it’s followed at the expense of the customer.
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For example, how many of these irritations have you experience yourself?
- Pop-up windows on websites that irritate users in the hope of winning subscribers in a more pushy way
- Making it difficult to cancel subscriptions in the hope that users will give up and remain customers
- Over-promising on the quality or quantity of a product or service
- Answering their phone line immediately for new sales, and leaving you in a call queue for hours when you’re trying to cancel something or get a refund.
These are classic examples of business objectives overriding user needs.
Business decision-makers can sometimes be guilty of encouraging their teams to blindly concentrate on sales, without paying enough attention to post-sale user experience.
In reality, these pop-up messages and other irritants are not so good for their users, and end up costing them money rather than making them more.
Successfully balancing your business goals with user needs involves going back to basics and taking a closer look at aligning your user needs with your business objectives.
Educate your colleagues on the importance of a design focus
Your operational structure may involve many layers of middle management that oversee different departments within your business structure. Sometimes this management hierarchy can be a problem, usually when senior management has little to no contact with end users and customers.
So how can you show your higher-ups or colleagues that paying attention to design can make more profit for the business?
The much-discussed McKinsey report from 2018 can give you some ammunition to sell the importance of design to your colleagues and your management team:
Companies with top-quartile McKinsey Design Index scores outperformed industry-benchmark growth by as much as two to one.
So how do you go about changing your organisation to make it more design-focused?
Changing your company culture to achieve a better balance
By placing user needs first and your own business needs and objectives second, your company will more likely achieve your business goals and meet your needs.
If you create something that is of genuine value and quality for your customers, then your business will usually grow without the need for negative tactics.
You can work to discover your customers’ pain points by conducting interviews.
By placing your user’s needs first they will have a more positive user experience (UX) and be left with a positive first impression of your company.
This will make them more inclined to buy from you, interact with you, sign up to your email list, subscribe, follow you on social media, (whatever your objective is) and return in the future.
Re-map your operations for a focus on DesignOps
Streamlining your business structure and removing some of the inefficiencies found in some traditional business structures can help. Take a look at our recommendations here regarding DesignOps.
You can often make big wins by ensuring that your marketing team is on board with a user-first approach that encourages a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs and habits.
You can re-focus and refresh your design system by conducting a design sprint for your product and service, to weed out superfluous tasks or processes that are hampering your productivity or delivery in some way.
If you have a large organisation that needs a system of line managers, then you need to work out how to give your teams the right line management and support they need: training and guidance that ensures middle-management understands the customers.
For smaller operations, you can look at bringing together your in-house design teams that are responsible for different elements of your product or service design, and create a single collaborative digital team that reports directly to one manager instead of different line managers, effectively removing the bloat from your design system and organisational structure.
Your Org structure can be compared to building a framework on shifting sands. Nothing is ever going to be permanent and will need to be re-built again over time – but this should be seen as a good thing where you will never end up being frozen in time.
Going back to basics
Rather than performing fixes to your structure as it is now, that may cause more issues further down the line later on, it may be time to de-construct your structure and start again with a fresh set of DesignOps based on the latest design technologies and techniques.
Yes, you will want to see your business performance grow, but to ask your team to add something to improve your business performance that might degrade the user experience should make you think again about making that change.
Your DesignOps is an integral component in bridging the gap between your user’s needs and the needs of your company.
Putting your user first
Yes, we may have stressed this point a few times by now: at the end of the day, happy users = good customers.
You should always keep this in mind. This might seem obvious when typed in black and white, but can be less easy to cling onto during day-to-day business operations.
No matter how subtle you want your changes to be in favour of your company or to enhance your figures, those changes could see your business performance go down against your expectation.
Upset your user estimation and your business will suffer for it. Don’t jump into making changes that you think will meet your business needs over those of your users. You need to hold on to a holistic view of your design system where your business needs and your user’s needs are the same.
Your business objectives and needs should be aligned with your end customers needs if you want to hold on to your existing customers and attract prospective new customers. It can be helpful to learn how to link your users needs to your business goals.
Remember though that your user’s needs and moods will change over time. They may change more often than your business objectives so keep on revisiting your DesignOps and reviewing your UX to make sure your business remains on point.