What happens when business is not accompanied by UX? — “don’t do this at home” story

Project: People
Nov 14, 2018 · 7 min read

Do “big ones” make fewer mistakes when it comes to combining business and UX? It may seem that yes because they have more experience, there are more people, a larger budget, so many products introduced to the market…

And yet… the truth is far from that! Regardless of the undertaking’s scale, there are a few mistakes which everyone still makes — large corporations, medium size companies, and the smallest startups.

Mistakes which hurt more when the business is big.

1. When “everyone is our client” — meaning when we don’t know our persona

Asking about the target group is the first question we ask in order to understand the project and business behind it. And it is perhaps the most often asked when we hear an answer like “I don’t know” or “everyone” — both indicating that we don’t know the basic thing about our business, meaning who we sell to — therefore, how can we do it well?

A simple example — the process of creating a restaurant will be completely different in the case of a facility designed for families with children invited for a “Sunday dinner” than when aiming to create a romantic place for couples to have an evening meal, right?

The case is similar when it comes to projects — a mobile app which should indicate how to reach point B from point A — for children will offer a quick and safe route with additional markings on the road, and for managers traveling on a business — the fastest route to travel by car or cabs available nearby.

In theory, in both cases the “product” seems to be the same — we build a restaurant or a navigation app. But how much differently would we design it knowing our client? And how does communicating values and marketing change (thus, also sales) when we know what to say and to whom?

(Xult Cryptocurrency Exchange @Dribbble)


(My Wallet — El Dorado @Dribbble)

For example — two screens from two different cryptocurrency market projects which we’ve executed. What is important, those are images of the same screen…but designed for different people. In case of one project, its recipients consisted in the residents of Venezuela who do not possess advanced knowledge in terms of for example the stock market mechanisms or cryptocurrencies but require clear information concerning their cryptocurrency wallet, and in the second case, the recipients consisted in advanced users who value data and charts.

The differences of the approach can be seen, right? :)

2. When we don’t know what we really “sell” — meaning when we don’t know our value position

The second frequently made mistake is viewing our “product” as what we sell to our clients. And after all — a classic example — we won’t open an app for booking a cab because we have some free time and want to “ride across the city” but because we need to get from point A to point B. We don’t go to the store because we want to purchase a new and nice hammer, but because we need a nail to be hammered to a wall in order to hang a picture.

The hammer is just a “carrier of value” — if we were able to hit the nail with something else and it would be safer/easier/faster/more available then that would be our tool of choice.

Being attached to a solution and not thinking about the “value” that we sell is one of the mistakes most strongly halting a business — it focuses efforts on developing the sole product (which sometimes is manifested as a sense that the entire business “stands still despite the fact that we do so much”) and not the business (with the product being just its part).

(PelviFly @Dribbble)

An example may be our native startup PelviFly which supports women in exercising pelvic floor muscles through a device connected to a training app.

Working together with the team we came to a conclusion that PelviFly does not really sell a device, app, or training plan, but the hope that it is possible to handle the problem of urinary incontinence by any woman, as well as the knowledge in the form of a plan how to do it step by step. And whether it is executed by an app, in the course of webinars, or any other way, that is of secondary importance.

3. When we base our entire business on assumptions — meaning when we don’t allow ourselves to test and experiment.

Everything we haven’t confirmed with the users is our assumption — that is the basic principle with which we start working with clients and one to which we often return — it is easy to fall into a trap of thinking that we “know something” or “everyone surely…”.

That is why it is important to verify all assumptions with quick and short tests (this sometimes means a few days or a week), starting with the riskiest ones — developing the product instead of immediately building entire ready solutions.

And what will happen if an assumption — fundamental for our project — turns out to be false?

For example one project we’ve worked on concerned solutions for elderly people and included an assumption that the app could support them in everyday activities. The task was to diagnose what those activities are… But during tests, it turned out that the users from the research group do not use smartphones as often as personal computers so the app would be mostly useless for them. Therefore, the basic assumption turned out to be false, while we’ve discovered a potential in other fields. And what would happen if our project was based on the assumptions and…the mobile app was created?

That is precisely why “saving” on tests later often turns out to be our biggest expense.

4. When we include UX in the process on a later stage of works — meaning when the UX does not constitute a part of the strategy

Contrary to popular belief, this is a problem experienced by both large and small projects (when it comes to the execution time), namely including a UX designer only on the stage of “implementing” the project — when there are already business assumptions, an action plan, and when the marketing often works on its strategy with the idea for the solution already “ready”, just needed to be “dressed”.

And after all, UX may constitute a great advantage over the competition and precisely the value which we sell, so a fundamental part of the business model — that is why it is worth to include it from the very beginning — starting with the business concept phase.

Just look at Revolut — an app which allows to quickly send money to friends by knowing just their phone number (sounds similar to the functions of ordinary banking apps right?) but the speed, simplicity, and form result in that… Revolut is recommended and quickly wins over following markets. And their strong advantage consists simply in… good UX.

5. When UX is handled only by designers — the team is not aware of the client/user

And the last of the deadly sins, most often found in product companies but also when we commission UX outside of the company. It is strongly related to the previous point when UX is only a “following stage” of working on the project. Meaning what happens when knowledge concerning the client is possessed only by a few people and why it is a problem?

For a number of reasons — first of all, if not everyone in the team knows the client and understands his or her needs then how can they generate new solutions or innovations for that person? They may create them based on their private ideas or inspirations but they won’t be as good as when they really meet the users’ needs.

Secondly — what happens when at a certain stage of the process we will lack a designer possessing knowledge about the client, or a researcher, or a person from the marketing department? We create a certain piece of the project based on assumptions… and we’ve already discussed why that is a bad thing. ;)

Thirdly — how much more difficult it is to make a decision concerning developing the project when during a discussion we have people from different departments and just one person having real contact with the client. And what if everyone knew what the user’s problems are, what he or she thinks about the existing solutions, and… what if we made decisions basing on it?

That is just a short list of the most frequent business sins, but those which in our opinion have the biggest impact on the business — and additionally they happen to everyone, regardless of the trade and size.

But only the one who does nothing makes no mistakes, right?

So “don’t do this at home” and “learn on mistakes”. :)

— -

Do you need support to start a project at your company, you want to verify whether your idea has sense, or you simply want to talk about the process?

Write at joanna (at) projectpeople.pl or get a hold of me on LinkedIn. :)

Joanna Ostafin, Head of design & Co-founder at Project: People | Lean UX lover Project: People.

Project: People deals with supporting the verification of business ideas based on Lean Startup as well as business strategy and UX for projects, startups, and large companies.

We implement a lean approach to the work of teams and projects (Lean Startup, Lean Marketing, and Lean UX), as well as design and execute trainings, workshops, and simulation games dedicated for business and education.

Project: People

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Project: People (www.projectpeople.pl) is a lean strategy agency. We don't have an offer. We are working on problems and needs our customers have.

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