A Guide to Business-driven UX Design

A Guide to Business-driven UX Design

In today's competitive business landscape, design has become an integral part of creating a successful brand. Design not only enhances the aesthetics of a brand, but it also plays a crucial role in creating a positive perception of the brand among its customers. The value of design is not just limited to its ability to create visually appealing products or services. It also has a direct impact on the bottom line of a business. In this article, we will explore the business value of design and how it can drive growth and success for companies.

Business-driven companies are the ones that succeed: A statement of fact.

In today's digital marketplace, user-centric design is the ultimate goal of creating a digital interface. To achieve this, UX methods such as user interviews, surveys, testing, statistical analysis, and personas are primarily focused on understanding user needs. According to Nielsen Norman Group, meeting the exact needs of the customer without complications is the first requirement for an exemplary user experience.

However, despite this ideal, many decisions made in digital design do not prioritize user needs. Examples include intrusive advertising (such as Google Ads and YouTube Ads), limitations that go against user needs (such as Twitter's character limit and TikTok's video length limit), and restrictions applied to increase conversion rates (such as removing the back button on e-commerce checkout forms or requiring an email address to download a free report).

Business-driven companies

The ultimate aim of a successful user experience is not only to fulfill the exact needs of the users, but also to achieve the desired business outcomes. Even if users are highly satisfied with a redesign, it may still be deemed a failure if it does not align with the overall business strategy. Therefore, the key to success lies in striking a balance between meeting user needs and aligning with the business strategy.

The complex relationship between Business and UX departments: A closer look.

Designers can find business decisions frustrating at times as they may prioritize business objectives over the needs of users. However, the business department must acknowledge that implementing UX best practices can lead to higher profitability for the company. When both teams fail to understand each other's goals, it can result in conflict, which unfortunately is still a common occurrence in 2023. UX designers must still work to convince stakeholders of the value of UX.

Combining a user-centric design approach with a business-driven mindset can be a challenging but ultimately rewarding endeavor. In many cases, both departments may hold strong opinions on certain matters. For instance, from a business standpoint, advertising can be highly profitable, but from a user perspective, it can be invasive.

To ensure efficient and balanced collaboration on any UX project, it's crucial to define the roles of each department.

  • The Business department should be responsible for defining the business strategy, including goals, mission statements, and target markets. While they can suggest features based on personal opinions, they should not impose decisions that will negatively impact the UX.
  • The UX department should design a user experience that aligns with the user's needs and supports the business goals set by the Business department.

The 5 stages of the business-driven UX process

The 5 stages of the business-driven UX process diagram

1. Business strategy

The UX department's role doesn't involve defining the business strategy, but it is responsible for gathering the necessary business information that will impact the design phase.

Statements like "Increase the conversion rate" or "Improve the user experience" are not sufficient business goals because they lack crucial details.

Well-defined business strategies should be concise and clear, including specific, measurable, challenging, and time-based goals. Additionally, a mission statement should be brief, memorable, and action-oriented, while target markets should be segmented according to importance and profitability.

In some cases, other information like SWOT analysis, value proposition, competitive matrix, and business model canvas can be beneficial to the project.

It is essential to define indicators used to track progress towards the business goals, as well as the department responsible for monitoring the results. Indicators may sometimes be subjective when no concrete data can be measured.

Documentation of each stage of the UX process is crucial in achieving evidence-based design, promoting effective collaboration among team members, and earning buy-in from the business department by demonstrating a reliable process. Atlassian Confluence is an excellent collaboration tool to consider.

2. Research

The UX research methods selection is based on both user needs and business strategy. These two stages, along with the "Evaluate" phase, are the only ones in the design process where business is as critical as users.

To begin, opt for business-driven methods such as Competitive Analysis, Call Center Report, Product Returns Report, Checkout Conversion Rate Report, or High-Profit Margin Products Report. The techniques will differ significantly based on the company's objectives, such as increasing sales or reducing call center demand for an e-commerce site.

Next, employ user-centric methods such as Personas, User Interview, Task Analysis, Focus Group, Card Sorting, Journey Mapping, or Service Blueprint.

If any evaluation methods from the Evaluate phase are missing, add them in. These could include Analytics Review, User Testing, UX Survey, Search-log Analysis, among others.

The research method's sequence is determined by the strength of research evidence. For example, if the Call Center Report provides fact-based information, it will be the first research step. Whereas, if personas don't have statistical backing, they will be done last.

Note that the research components may be influenced by the business strategy. The personas may be inspired by the target market, and the metrics analysis may be based on business goals. There are no hard and fast rules since it varies from case to case.

3. Define

The only mandatory method in the "Define" stage is the UX Strategy, which is a plan that identifies challenges such as business goals and user pain points, and their corresponding solutions. For instance, if the challenge is to reduce support ticket volume by 20% in a year, the solutions could be adding a survey at the end of knowledge base articles, removing the contact link in the top navigation, and showing related FAQs before displaying the contact form. Jared M. Spool emphasized that every business goal must be translated into UX solutions.

Apart from the UX Strategy, the purpose of the "Define" stage is to document all the specifications required for the development phase, and strictly for that purpose. For instance, customer segmentation will be part of the "Define" stage since it is necessary for UX personalization, but not Persona, which is a research methodology that won't be used for development.

For the first round, the specifications are solely based on observations gathered during the Research stage to define a starting point, such as UX Roadmap, User Stories, User Flows, Information Architecture, Taxonomy, Design Specifications, etc. During the "Design" stage, the initial specifications are updated, and additional ones are defined.

Moreover, the required web accessibility standard (e.g., WCAG) and the level of conformance (A, AA, and AAA) are also specified in this stage, usually based on the previously identified requirements.

4. Design

The stage of “Design” involves utilizing various methods aimed at designing the user experience, including but not limited to, Wireframes, Wireflows, UX Prototype, Editorial Style Guide, Mood Board, Design System, Visual Design, Content Writing, Iconography, and more.

Whenever new specifications are defined, you should return to the “Define” stage and update the UX documentation. Moving back and forth between “Define” and “Design” is a natural flow, and this stage will only be considered complete once the Define stage is fully documented. Please note that you don’t need to wait for the full completion of this stage before conducting evaluation methods — generally, the earlier, the better.

It's crucial to ensure that your visual design aligns with the required accessibility guidelines. Several tools are available that can check colors, contrasts, font sizes, etc.

5. Evaluate

The "Evaluate" stage involves not only performing methods, but also creating a plan to assess outcomes based on both user needs and business strategy. This includes:

  • Identifying key objectives
  • Selecting appropriate methods and tools
  • Planning and conducting the methods
  • Documenting the process, findings, and recommendations.

Qualitative evaluation methods involve a small group of users, and can be done during the design process or on the live website. Examples of methods include User Testing (in-person or remotely), Session Recording, and Eye-Tracking, as well as static design image evaluations like the 5 Second Test, First Click Test, and Blur Test. If external user recruitment isn't possible due to budget constraints, colleagues can be used as a low-cost alternative, although it's not ideal.

Quantitative evaluation methods involve a large number of users and can only be done on the live website due to the higher sample size requirement. Examples of methods include Analytics Review, A/B Testing, Search-log Analysis, UX Survey, FAQ Review, Heatmap Review, and Guerrilla Testing.

In addition, Website Page Speed must be evaluated during the development phase and then periodically monitored as it's a crucial aspect of the user experience. Web Accessibility can be tested with online tools, and the WAI website provides a list of Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools based on the defined standard. Regional disability organizations can also be contacted for involvement in the evaluation stage.

Once the data is collected and reports produced, with findings and recommendations, the iterative process moves back to the Research, Define, or Design stage.

After the data has been gathered and the reports containing the findings and recommendations have been generated, the iterative process will return to the Research, Define, or Design stage.