The Business Value of User Centered Design
An increasing number of companies are opting to take a user-centred approach and focus on design activities in order to achieve a better user experience (UX) for their products and services.
Is it worth the effort? According to research, companies that deliberately align their business strategy and innovation processes with the end user are more successful.
Insight in brief
- The maturity level of a company with regard to user-oriented activities is recorded in UX maturity models.
- A comprehensive integration of user-centered design activities into the company's value-adding processes leads to sustainably more successful products and services.
- A systematic alignment of the product and service strategy with the end users can only be achieved with the involvement of the management levels.
Senior managers in most companies are now aware of the importance of issues such as usability and user experience. Ten years ago, corporate decision-makers needed lots of convincing to consider issues that are now top of the agenda. An increasing number of companies are opting to take a user-centred approach and focus on design activities. They are studying user needs, reviewing concepts with the end users, and optimising functions and designs in an iterative process. But is it worth the effort?
The four steps of the Design Ladder are as follows:
- No design: On step 1, design plays a minimal or no role in the business. The user perspective is barely even considered in processes.
- Design as styling: On step 2, design is only relevant in terms of form or aesthetic considerations.
- Design as a process: On step 3, design is a process in the development of products or services; meeting the requirements of the end user is driving this process.
- Design as a strategy: On step 4, at the very top, design is a driver of innovation and the renewal process within the company. Design is an integral component of the business objectives throughout the value chain.
Increasing profits with user-centred design
Since 2003, research focusing on the Design Ladder has been carried out in several European countries, including Denmark and Great Britain. It aims to demonstrate that business success depends on the level of design maturity within a company, i.e. how close the company is to the user-centred design approach.
The result? There is a positive correlation between a company’s position on the Design Ladder and its financial success. Companies that have succeeded, over time, in climbing up to the higher rungs of the Design Ladder, were generating higher profits and export volumes. According to the Danish study, companies that invest in design activities had succeeded in increasing their net profit by 40% more than those companies whose design activities remained the same or stagnated.
UX maturity models for measuring maturity
Summary: Focus on the end user
By fully integrating user-centred design activities into their value-creation processes, companies can achieve sustainable success for their products and services. Identifying where your organisation currently is on the UX maturity scale can be a useful starting point for further developing the business. An honest and objective assessment will highlight strengths and weaknesses.
Systematically aligning the strategy for products and services with the needs of the end user requires management involvement. It is therefore worth consulting independent experts who can use their external perspective, and experience from a variety of industries, to take an objective and critical look at your business in order to identify weaknesses and initiate improvements. If we are to believe the results of research into the correlation between a company’s UX maturity level and its business success, such efforts will pay for themselves.