User experience: not quite about the user and not really an experience

Popular UX measures 'say little about how users react to digital experiences or how to improve them'

User experience (UX) is important, and everybody talks about how its two components -- employee experience and customer experience -- are competitive differentiators that need everyone's full attention. However, UX still takes a backseat in most software and online product releases. 

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the takeaway from a recent survey of 693 UX professionals published by UserZoom. The problem with UX is that the user is getting left out of product and UX decisions. That's quite an oversight. The survey finds close to half of companies are failing to properly integrate user research practices into the full product development lifecycle. 

Here are the survey's findings:

The user is getting left out of product and user experience decisions. At least 45%, of organizations admitted "they do not have processes in place to make design and UX decisions based on feedback." By margins of 30-plus points, digital experience teams that consistently integrate user research in product development report a positive impact on customer satisfaction (80% to 50%) and brand perception (76% to 45%), compared to those that don't, the survey's authors report.

Organizations aren't linking the power of great UX design to revenue -- though they understand its implications. More than two-thirds of respondents said that UX positively impacts customer satisfaction and a majority (62%) say it improves brand perception. Still, only 13% of organizations have a UX leader in the C-suite. 

There's an over-reliance on incomplete UX metrics without actionable insight. Organizations use UX metrics to discover usability issues (68%), and validate designs (66%). However, these "say little about how users react to digital experiences or how to improve them," the survey's authors point out. Plus, for actionable insights that may deliver, only 50% use these metrics to drive product strategy or innovation (50%), or measure UX performance against competitors (36%). 

"These organizations are overlooking higher value research opportunities that can inform broader business decision-making earlier in the process," the survey's authors report. "One of the challenges that UX teams face today is identifying the right success metrics. Seventy percent report the demand for UX research has increased in the past year, but almost half say that budgets are unchanged. This indicates a tipping point of needing to prove the value of UX investment and the need to translate UX insights into measurable business outcomes."

Time is the leading obstacle to creating a culture of user-centricity: True -- trying to ensure that all is aligned with user expectations, and that the system is easy to use -- can be time-consuming in a world in which one is expected to push software out the door every single day. Fifty-five of professionals cite time constraints as the leading obstacle to UX success. "There is potential perception failure that UX research is seen to be time-consuming and adding extra steps in the product development process," the study's authors believe. "And this is often why digital product, design, and research leaders are forced to trade off the quality of insights in favor of speed. They can either go faster with limited insights -- but at a more frequent pace -- or go deeper with high-quality insights that slow down product development."

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