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The Criticality of UX: How to Overcome Disruption and Succeed in Today’s Volatile Environment

The Criticality of UX: How to Overcome Disruption and Succeed in Today’s Volatile Environment

“The utmost thing is the user experience, to have the most useful experience.” – Marissa Mayer, former Yahoo CEO

Investment in User Experience, UX,  can help companies explore new and innovative ways to deliver value to customers by providing exceptional experiences during an unprecedented time.

Pandemic Impact on Business Growth 

Since the early phases of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of commonplace interactions have changed and been replaced with new ways of customer engagement. For example, the pandemic has changed the way many individuals dine out, go to school, make everyday purchases, or go to work. Because of these sudden, impactful changes, many industries are still exploring different ways to adjust and accommodate for new experiences. While some industries such as grocery delivery services and video conferencing services are thriving, many others, like the airline and tourism industries, are figuring out a way to face challenges head on and persist through these difficult times.

Additionally, the pandemic has posed an interesting challenge to industries because different regions around the globe have responded differently to containment of the novel coronavirus. At the beginning of the pandemic, on the whole, shutdowns were more strict. As certain regions ease restrictions, it is more imperative that different industries are nimble and can respond to fluctuations in the pandemic response. Because things can change rapidly, those who prioritize customer insights will be ahead of the curve in understanding what their customers need and demand are to contend with the lifestyle changes that the pandemic has brought on. 

Customer behavior has moved mostly from in-person interactions to online over the past half-year, as evidenced by the following statistics:

The statistics above suggest that many businesses should focus more on remote services to accommodate for the big customer shift to online browsing and shopping. Outside of this stark shift in consumer behavior, many other industries are practicing empathy to help them adjust business models during the pandemic. 

Industry Perspective: Insurance Response

The insurance industry was at the forefront of adapting their business practices to proactively mitigate pandemic changes to their business and announcing some form of financial relief to those insured. For example, State Farm Insurance announced automobile insurance rate reductions and rebates to customers to the tune of about $2 billion in savings. While it is unknown if State Farm had conducted any user research around the cross-country rebate, it’s clear from their actions that they were prioritizing the needs of their customers by understanding both behavioral changes with regard to customer commutes and the financial impact that the pandemic had on its customers. State Farm did not hesitate to put the needs of their consumers first, and a little bit of empathy went a long way in this case.

Measuring UX Success

Getting started with UX can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure how to measure success right away. UX is also not something that should only exist within the technology industry since  the heart of UX lies in getting companies closer to what customers need; the pandemic affects all industries, not just the tech industry. Moreover, beginning from an empathetic standpoint to focus on user experience means that you’re taking the steps to design your product or service with your users in mind, which will cut down on development costs later down the road if you were to exclude research and design from the development process. 

IBM and Forrester conducted a study that quantified the direct value of incorporating design thinking practices into teams at IBM, with strong evidence to support UX’s value proposition to not just design and product teams, but to many other adjacent teams like marketing and engineering as well. Some statistics from the study highlight the following success metrics:

Design thinking enabled IBM’s teams to achieve…

  • 2 times faster time-to-market;
  • 75% reduced design time;
  • 33% reduced development time; and
  • 301% ROI.

Additional information around measuring UX ROI can be found here

How to Get Started with UX

Taking inspiration from both the design thinking methodology that originated from the Stanford School of Design as well as the Double Diamond design method.

 Some simple ways to get started are as follows.

1. Align on UX research goals

The first step to being a UX-driven business is to align on the types of questions you want to dig into. Organizing and participating in internal user experience workshops can help businesses bring all relevant stakeholders together to understand what they want to learn from customers and align on research goals early on to be able to make decisions around products or services.

2. Empathize with your customers

The next step would be to reach out to your customers and conduct customer interviews to better understand customer needs and pain points. This is an essential part of human-centered design and UX research. Empathizing with your customers and their experiences can help identify key opportunities for growth and/or improvements to your business offerings.

3. Define the problem space 

Once you gather information from customers, you’ll have a wealth of information. The next step would be to aggregate and analyze the information you collect. You may also look into creating a customer journey map to help you better understand how your customer experiences your product or service. This would be a great method to understand how experiences have changed over the course of the past pandemic year. Once you have identified the pain points and areas for improvement, you can focus on ideating potential solutions.

4. Ideate on new innovations and solutions

To generate potential solutions or opportunities for your business, you will need to take your findings and consider different approaches to innovate your product or service. Here, ideation workshops with different internal teams and stakeholders can take center stage in delivering ways to improve your product or service.

5. Prototype and test your idea

Once you have settled on a potential solution, the next step would be to prototype your idea and to test it with your customers. You want to reach out to customers and get feedback on your solution, whether it’s through concept tests or usability tests, depending on your product strategy.

These concrete steps build upon the one before it, but please note that every stage in the UX research process is iterative. That means that no matter where you start, you are always able to advance through the stages to continuously improve your product or service. 

It’s Never Too Late to Start Thinking About UX

Of course, there is no “one size fits all” solution to providing great experiences during a pandemic. Every customer is going to have a different risk assessment of COVID-19, which adds to the level of complexity of designing products and experiences that accommodate individuals during this time. That is exactly why it is important to invest in UX research and design to get ahead of customer sentiment and needs. Understanding customer behavior and delivering products or experiences that provide real value during this uncertain time. Investing in UX means understanding how to bring human-centered design principles into every day business practices. Human-centered design is an integral part of UX, framing customer needs and pain points in critical ways to produce solutions that can address those needs. There are many ways to bring UX to life, regardless of an organization’s UX maturity level. 

In sum, UX design helps industries become more resilient by focusing on delivering the best and most relevant experiences for customers. At its core, UX research is a strategic way of combining empathy and design to uncover and design solutions, digital or physical, that improves design experiences. The value of UX lies in the idea that products and services should be useful to those who use them; companies should be thinking how to provide experiences or products that delight users but also are continuously improving their product or service based on changing customer needs and behaviors. It’s never too late to incorporate UX to increase value.

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