Research shows big payoff when design includes voice of the user

January 23, 2019

Arriving at a fantastic design rarely happens by magic or luck. More typically, it occurs through a great deal of work … including revisions, iterations, and seeking out the voice of the user. We know this. It makes sense. Yet, stakeholders still cut design cycles short because they can’t be sure that one more iteration, or that running a user study, will have a positive return on investment. Being in the field of user experience research, we know the positive impact that user experience (UX) research has on product design, but it can be challenging to convince a board room to invest. But now we have evidence! McKinsey recently released a report showing the business benefits of design.

The report found a robust correlation between companies that are strong in design and the financial performance of each company. These results held true across the industries they studied, covering physical products, digital products, and services. As you read into the report, UX research was at the heart of what put companies in the top quartile.

The report goes on…

“The importance of user-centricity, demands a broad-based view of where design can make a difference … In practice, this often means mapping a customer journey (pain points and potential sources of delight) rather than starting with “copy and paste” technical specs from the last product. This design approach requires solid customer insights gathered firsthand by observing and—more importantly—understanding the underlying needs of potential users in their own environments. … Yet only around 50 percent of the companies we surveyed conducted user research before generating their first design ideas or specifications…

And on…

… many companies have been slow to catch up. Over 40 percent of the companies surveyed still aren’t talking to their end users during development. … With no clear way to link design to business health, senior leaders are often reluctant to divert scarce resources to design functions. That is problematic because many of the key drivers of the strong and consistent design environment identified in our research call for company-level decisions and investments.

In our experience, designers are amazed by the many ways consumers interpret their designs. Knowledge of consumer interpretations empowers designers to improve their designs in subsequent iterations. Thus, design benefits from the voice and interpretation of the people who will adopt it.

Plain and simple, companies that invest in user experience research perform better financially than those that don’t. This data has been anecdotal in the past, but McKinsey’s report should serve as the foundation for any UX manager trying to build a business case for UX.