What about User Experience (UX) design does the Product team need to know? Does every product require a UX designer? Without a UX designer, who in the product team is best suited to equip themselves with additional UX knowledge?
Within the last few years, the importance of user experience has become an ever-present topic among startups to the largest companies in the world. Taking products directly to the consumer is the wave of the future. As a result of direct-to-consumer business, where the salesperson is no longer needed, companies can go directly to the customer through e-commerce and manage customer relationships while selling directly to them.
This change places incredible importance on the software or technology platform used in the direct-to-consumer business, and therefore one of the most critical data points to continuously evaluate is the Users Experience.
Low entry barrier solutions that create user retention are essential to become competitive #
In today's digital landscape, users have many digital solution options with low entry barriers. A positive user experience is essential for user retention, as users are likelier to stick with a product if they find it easy to use and enjoy the overall experience. In addition, providing a great user experience is vital to standing out in a competitive environment.
Of course, there are exceptions, especially regarding brand loyalty. Users may be more likely to stay with a digital product if they strongly connect with the brand, even if the user experience leaves something to be desired. User alignment with the brand, its values, and a personal connection to the company can contribute to brand loyalty and retention despite poor user experience. Nevertheless, it is not a sure bet; companies should not count on users staying for the long run.
However, in most cases, users will quickly switch to a new product if they have a poor user experience, and it is rare that customers will stay for brand loyalty alone. In addition, when the user experience is not considered companies spend a lot of extra time and money correcting poorly designed products and business processes.
Importance of UX Design competence in future product development. #
With such a shift in sales and the known importance of the user’s experience, why do so many product teams still lack this essential knowledge? Many companies will invest in an overall UX competency that may support specific product teams, but not place that competency directly in a team.
As an IT business consultant, I see an opportunity for product teams to equip themselves with UX design knowledge that is essential to product development. However, exactly how in-depth that knowledge should be, is a question that lingers. The nature and size of the product should determine the extent of UX knowledge needed, either a unique UX design role or added UX knowledge to existing roles. However, the product team inevitably benefits in all ways, by increasing their overall knowledge and awareness of UX design.
A product team usually comprises a Product Owner complemented with a Business Analyst if the product is too large to handle for one person, Tech Lead, Solution Architect and Developers. The Business Analyst's role is about understanding the need of all stakeholders and consumers and proposing requirements, and the Product Owner determines the further development of the product according to her/his vision for the product to be as valuable as possible. It is here where additional UX design knowledge can have a significant impact as UX knowledge contributes to product viability, feasibility, and desirability, fulfilling the main objectives of the BA (Business Analyst) and PO (Product Owner).
Let us look at the BA competence to understand if it also needs UX knowledge to be added to get maximal benefits from the product team. Business Analysts' competence in product teams plays a vital role in the success of any product. It includes the responsibility for understanding the business and customer requirements, the market, and the competitive landscapes to translate identified findings into technical requirements and process maps. The BA is responsible for analyzing product performance, data, and metrics. The BA also supports the Product Owner in developing a product roadmap, defining feature requirements, and managing the product development backlog. For continuous improvement and development, the BA is responsible for interpreting customer feedback and understanding user behavior to inform product strategy and design.
After taking a 6-month diploma course in UX design, I asked myself, "how much more value can I add to my product team with an added knowledge in UX?"
Needed level of UX Design competence in a product development team. #
Given the set of responsibilities just mentioned, the BA is an obvious candidate for adding value to the product team by having additional knowledge of UX design. UX design is a research-based discipline worthy of having a specific role in a product team. To add enough value, what about the UX design discipline should a BA know?
In order to add value to the product team, the BA should have a foundational knowledge of UX design principles. Learning UX design principles and knowledge, a foundational course, with a focus on the following, should suffice:
- Design principles and patterns,
- Research, Analysis, and Design Techniques,
- Mental model (how you think it should work) vs. Design model (how it works),
- How to gather, specify and prioritize user requirements,
- Usability testing and other evaluation methods,
- User Flows, Wireframing, & prototyping
A BA should understand the basics of UX design, such as usability principles, user-centered design, and user experience research. In addition, they should understand and apply diverse types of UX design processes, and the key activities involved in each. For example, let us look at the UX principle, Mental Models. A user’s mental model impacts the information architecture and is essential to building a user-friendly flow in the interface and navigation. Information Architecture must respond to the users' mental models to make the user experience positive. Therefore, this principle needs to be understood and applied. If a BA is familiar with and can effectively apply UX principles, tools, and techniques, they will be more effective in capturing, modeling, and presenting convincing requirements to various stakeholders, specifically the business and product owner.
Finally, a BA should understand how a UX design process solves different user needs and business requirements. By following the below "sacred process," the BA will ensure a comprehensive understanding of all the requirements needed to accurately ensure the product's potential, make informed decisions, and create an effective product strategy.
There is an apparent (positive) link to the product's value, by the Business Analyst and the Product Owner having additional UX Knowledge. This additional knowledge will identify user requirements and contribute to an overall increased product value which includes a focus on a product's viability (business), feasibility (technology), and desirability (customer). This is the explicit value of having a Business Analyst with additional UX design knowledge.
As I mentioned earlier, after finishing my diploma education in UX design, I asked myself, "how much more value can I add to my product team with an added knowledge in UX?" As I currently have the role as a Product Owner of a team of very specialized SAP consultants, I have reflected on this question a lot. As requirements come in, with my added knowledge in UX design, I can challenge them to consider UX design principles and patterns in their solutioning. I am also able to work with my BA on requirement gathering and ensure we follow specific UX methodologies for considering the user and their experience in our requirement gathering process.
Given the current focus on the direct consumer relationship, multiple similar software solutions and the importance in UX alignment with architecture and business processes, additional UX knowledge in product teams is essential and companies cannot afford to overlook it.
A dedicated UX Designer or a BA with UX knowledge. #
The next step would be to include a dedicated UX Designer in the team. This is especially important if the product is in the beginning of the product lifecycle, an on-line, direct-to-consumer and to be newly introduced on the market. This way we can ensure the correct “look and feel,” design, and usability of the product. The product should be designed so that consumers can use it intuitively without any onboarding or training. This way the baseline and UX guidelines can be set for further enhancement of the product. When this is done successfully the UX Designer could be replaced by BA and/or PO with UX knowledge for the remainder of the product lifecycle.