UX & Risk Reduction
How A Strong Product Design Practice Reduces Risk and Adds Value
The customer is always right. It seems like a no-brainer, something that we’ve heard for most of our lives. Of course, the real story is more complex. Businesses succeed when they meet their target audience’s needs. Yet, many in the tech world fail at this. They release apps that miss the mark completely, are too complex to use, or are “just okay,” not bringing enough value to the end user. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk of this happening, and implementing a strong product design practice offers a few of these.
Product Design is all about truly understanding the user, and creating a personalized design where “getting it wrong” can be significantly reduced. Before any line of code is written, thorough research on the target audience is conducted. Through interviews, ethnography studies, and other research activities, the user is placed in focus. Feelings, motivations, pain points, and goals are all uncovered, allowing for an accurately defined problem statement to be produced and worked on. Making assumptions about the user and their behavior is often how companies fail to meet their user’s needs. Through proper UX research techniques, we are able to truly get to know the user, instead of thinking that we know them and running the risk of creating something that doesn’t delight them.
Moving forward with a well-crafted problem statement, the design phase offers its own effective forms of de-risking. Working with hand sketches and low fidelity wireframes are low cost ways to test ideas before investing too much time into graphic design or writing code. Feedback from real users can be obtained far earlier in the development process, letting us know if we are on the right path. Iterations and design revisions can happen quickly after gathering data from usability testing. Only when a sufficient amount of confidence has been established, the product can grow. Through its growth, it can continue to be evaluated by the user to ensure that it evolves in the right direction.
In 2018, McKinsey & Company conducted an extensive study on the connection between a strong design practice and the financial performance of a company. The design practices of 300 companies were tracked, more than 2 million pieces of financial data were collected, and over 100,000 design actions were recorded. Across three industries (medical technology, consumer goods, and retail banking), it was found that companies with top quartile McKinsey Design Index (MDI) scores – the metric used to rate the strength of a company’s design practice – performed significantly better than than those with lower MDI scores, with 32 percentage points of higher revenue growth and 56 percentage points of higher total return to shareholders over the five year observation period.
A key factor in the MDI score involves how integrated a company’s design practice is within the whole company. Companies with higher MDI scores have leadership that can identify their company’s design strengths and needs, and they invest in tools, infrastructure, and employee growth. The entire company is user-focused. By implementing a strong design practice, a measurable amount of performance can be gained, and in turn, the amount of risk a product carries is significantly reduced. Through exercises that focus on user discovery, balanced teams, ensuring that designers have access to tools and training, and ensuring that designers are given adequate time to perform research, design, and testing, 66degrees aims to maintain and continue growing a strong design practice.