UX designers are starting to get the respect they deserve. They’re in demand and that’s a good thing. But what most business still fail to realize is that UX is more than a role. To make it a priority, leaders need to stand by it. And it all comes down to how companies manage their UX knowledge.
Managing UX knowledge
More than ever before, businesses are made of experiences — user experiences, customer experiences, employee experiences. Products and services are less and less taken for granted, and companies are forced to reconsider their business models. As design thinking emerged as a strategic differentiator, leaders started to borrow designers’ perspective to understand their customers and deliver more value through carefully built products and services. To address the urgency, there has been an outburst of UX and CX hires. While those professionals were invited to take on new challenges, business leaders created new UX departments to accommodate their profile. And that’s exactly where the problem starts.
UX is not a design field
It’s utopic to think that UX is the product of UX designers. Experiences are the result of every single interaction people have with organizations. It starts with the high-level business strategy, passing through marketing, technology, manufacturing, support, distribution channels, and so on. Every touchpoint is crucial in the customer’s perspective. So it’s safe to say UX is everyone’s responsibility. That’s why UX data should be a priority in companies’ knowledge base.
So why most companies don’t use UX knowledge properly?
Unfortunately, businesses still fail to give enough importance to user experience. In a recent study published by the Nielsen Norman Group, respondents indicated that 41% of UX design teams do not get enough support from management. NNG has identified another key problem: the lack of high-level UX positions at organizations makes it difficult to place user experience in strategic business context. As a result, UX teams work in isolation from the rest of the company. Valuable data is gathered by UX researchers but is rarely shared with non-UX roles, remaining invisible to other departments.
How to make it work
Luckily, there are ways to empower organizations to change and make the most of their UX knowledge. Here are 3 simple tips to help leaders see it:
1 — Co-create
It’s true that many companies invest in their own design guidelines and share UX data across departments. The problem, however, is that employees with access to those guidelines are very rarely encouraged to contribute to the knowledge and can’t see it in context with their daily work. As a result, those guidelines end up being a single flow of information, where designers handpick information they find useful and populate a database that is not engaging for others.
People care for things they participate in creating. If we give them the right amount of information, along with some freedom to contribute, they will end up with some sense of ownership of the data. After all, when we own something, we tend to use it. Invite co-workers from various departments to participate in design workshops. Value their opinion. Introduce their ideas in your projects. Co-creation will not only promote the value of UX knowledge, but enrich it over time — remember, UX is everyone’s job.
2 — Be transparent
A clear visibility of UX research and its influence on real projects is extremely important. Knowing how UX makes everyone’s jobs more impactful will increase interest and participation. For example, sending a constructive report that shows the feedback of customers’ experience with a new payment modality might be an engaging piece of information for marketing, finance, tech, and many others. As soon as everyone realizes UX is interconnected throughout the organization, they will become pro-active in seeking data themselves and trying to act on it.
Even when a UX team or department works in isolation, there is always space for transparency. It’s important to show the value of UX, but also what went wrong and why. Making unsolicited data available to everybody is a great start. Reach out to other leaders. Share realistic roadmaps. Be open to criticism. Great UX design doesn’t only offer great solutions, it also raises important questions.
3 — Be flexible
Very often, organizations will “plug-and-play” solutions from existing providers so employees can have quick access to a knowledge database. But it doesn’t really work that way. UX (similarly to Knowledge Management) requires a strategy. And strategies have to be carefully thought out. Since UX data may be very broad and crosses multiple departments, it’s normal that people will use different approaches. Executive managers in a company treat data very differently than data analysts. The same goes for designers, accountants, developers, etc. They all have their own priorities. So in the end, it’s not very likely that a pre-made solution such as a PowerPoint file or an internal help desk will fit everyone’s needs and interests.
While preparing an effective knowledge system, we must have in mind all the parties involved. And the best way to do it is to allow people to keep their knowledge habits — the way they collect, organize, and share data. A good UX knowledge base should be flexible enough to accommodate different methodologies such as Agile, Lean methodology, human-centered research, and so on. A good way to start is to consult everyone prior to implementing a company-wide solution. How do people tend to collect and organize their knowledge? How do they expect to receive it? What kind of information do they need? Which KPIs matter to them? If they had a perfect channel to participate in the company’s UX, how would it be? Find a common ground and build from there.