Ask the Experts: Common UX Challenges Facing Expansion-stage Companies
This week, in conjunction with a workshop OpenView is hosting on user experience process and product design, we’ve gathered a panel of four industry experts who each know a thing or two about designing successful products.
Yesterday, they recommended several best practices for designing products that customers will love. In this second installment of the three-part series, they turn their focus to the following question:
What are the biggest UX challenges startup and expansion-stage companies face, and what solutions can you offer?
Kyrie Robinson, Partner – User Experience, Silicon Valley Product Group
One big challenge is that UX design takes time. Management teams have to accept and embrace the fact that each product cycle will get somewhat longer. The payoff is that the output is higher quality, sells better, requires less support, and needs less revision. Still, it can be difficult for teams to accept, particularly when it appears that your velocity is slowing down.
Another big challenge is organizational. If you have an existing group of engineers or product managers who are used to making all of the decisions, it can be difficult to add a new team member and then cede some of the control to them so that they can decide certain aspects of the design. You’ll often see others trying to second-guess the UX designer, which can be demoralizing. However, if you hire really talented people, and the organization sees the overall quality of work flowing from the team, that can inspire confidence and make it easier to let the design team play its role, while others step back and focus on their own respective roles.
Susan Weinschenk, Behavioral Psychologist and Author of 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People and Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?
It takes a lot of effort, time, and resources to design great stuff. If you’re new to interaction design, or user experience design, you may not realize just how much work goes into it. The more simple and elegant the design, the more time it takes to create. You need to know what you are doing, and have the right people to do it.
Startup and expansion-stage companies are usually overwhelmed with other critical decisions and work. Taking the time to focus on best practices around design may be hard. You’ve got to focus and do the best you can with the time and energy and resources you have. If you haven’t worked in user experience then you may not know how to do this.
Andrew Maier, Founder of UX Booth
Anyone who leads a startup has an intense desire to change, or at least influence, the future. By contrast, designers who follow the user-centered design process base their actions on research of the present and/or past. Those groups are almost invariably disconnected. The challenge is helping entrepreneurs understand the strengths of the user-centered design process while helping designers understand the “leap of faith” required of startup organizations.
Generally speaking, there are three ways to approach design/development: a re-active process (in which your actions are based on unforeseen circumstances, e.g., you react), a pre-active process (in which you try to foresee the circumstances, e.g., you research and prepare), and a pro-active process (in which your actions help dictate the circumstances, e.g., you predict). Successful startups must be cognizant of all three approaches and choose the right approach for the task at hand. No one approach is right.
Because many of today’s flat organizations aren’t aware of these processes, there’s usually a lot of contention — almost religious in nature — around the terms: UX/user-centered Design, Lean UX, Agile UX, Strategic UX, Agile Development, Waterfall Development, etc. The problem, again, isn’t any one process. It’s the lack of understanding and empathy among design and development professionals. It takes all kinds of people and processes to make something great. A company that practices only one of these techniques is not only immature, but hamstrung by its own myopic point of view. One perspective has superseded its peers.
Above all, I recommend a steady diet of looking inward. Startup organizations should test their product within their organizations. Can you collaborate with others using your messaging system? Would you prefer it over, say, e- mail or text messages? If not, how do you expect users to?
Chris Kaufman, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of UpTo
The biggest challenge is speed. Startups must move at crazy-fast speeds to compete and succeed. When you’re laser focused on pushing out the next build or feature, user experience can get lost in the shuffle. It’s important to stop periodically and review the product experience — when there are lots of moving parts, it’s easy to miss important details.
Step back for a moment, put yourself in the user’s shoes, and make sure everything makes sense. Could you explain your product in a way that it would make sense to an 8-year-old? If not, it’s probably too complicated. Taking a step back will slow the process down a bit, but it will pay-off big time in the long run.
Want to learn more? Check out the best practices in product design the panel recommends, and be sure to read the exciting conclusion of our series on product design and user experience, as well.
Improving processes, adding more documentation and holding a bunch of training sessions won’t scale a product-led engine—it’s org design that matters.