Evidence driven design

Language is critical to communicating and understanding. The words and terms used in business settings must provide a clear and common understanding so that work can be aligned and expectations set. But if a word or term is misused it can create a barrier to success.

In UX work you often hear the phrase “data driven design”. It’s a necessary approach because it can provide the insights required to move work forward successfully. But to many in business data means numbers. And numbers can be measured. Business loves what can be measured. Quantitative data can be very valuable, no doubt, but in UX design the core consideration is always people.

Qualitative data tries its best to translate human experience into numbers but it can’t get everything that’s important. How do you determine causality or really understand the subjective stimuli that someone else experiences? How can you really see something through some else’s eyes? Even contextual inquiry is artificial.

By using the word “data” it can often set the expectation that only what can be measured is important and actionable. Maybe if we start using the term “evidence driven design” instead of “data driven design” people will start thinking that what can’t be measured is just as important as what can be. It’s all evidence of the bigger picture that allows a better understanding of a problem and how to solve it.

No UX is an island

Small UI changes can sometimes make a big difference. Increasing the size of input fields or making sure a numeric keyboard comes up on a mobile device where the input can only be numbers can remove a lot of friction and improve an experience. But many times these changes are just masking a larger problem. UX is the sum of all touch points a user has with a product or service, but without the structures or incentives in place in an organization that allow true collaboration it is much more difficult and expensive to solve the real problems. The experience needs to be designed as a whole.

Companies can be successful for various reasons: operational efficiency, marketplace recognition, the hard work of their employees, etc. These efforts can work, but without taking into account the expectations of their customers and having a structure that allows a holistic effort, only at great cost. The traditional pathways to a product or service have been disrupted. The Internet allows access to almost anything to almost anyone. And Jakob’s law states “Users spend most of their time on other sites. This means that users prefer your site to work the same as all theĀ  other sites they already know.” They expect the same experience.

Creating a holistic experience takes a lot of work. Designs need to be consistent, systems need to talk to each other, common goals need to be established. . . . And perhaps most importantly, the business needs to ability to work together to achieve these outcomes. Take for example an app you’re designing that requires the input of multiple teams. UX is usually responsible for understanding the need and designing for the outcome. You try to engage all of the stakeholders but some might have their own goals that don’t align with yours and might be higher up the food chain. And the structure your company operates with doesn’t provide a framework where goals can even be aligned at the working level. Each group might have their own agenda. So your UX team spends the next few weeks or longer using time and resources moving towards the goals that you have established. When another group with its own goals finally takes the time to see what you’ve been working on they say “Oh we can’t do that because of this.” Because you weren’t able to get these groups to work together you have just spent precious resources designing and building something that might have to be scrapped. That’s wasted time and money. Can your business afford that?

Without the ability to work as one, companies waste resources. The last time I looked these were in limited supply. To provide the holistic experience that matches the expectations your customers have, and perhaps ultimately determines if your business succeeds or fails, at least takes the structures and incentives to allow it to happen.