User experience design is much more than just a visual aesthetic or a popular term for good old web design. A study by the Design Management Institute shows that user experience (UX) design-driven companies outperformed the S&P 500 by 228% over the last ten years. Regardless of industry, businesses that significantly invested in UX design were able to demonstrate an impressive advantage. These companies include Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, IBM, Intuit, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Walt Disney and Nike. But how did investing in UX design elevate these companies above their competitors in the market? The answer will surprise you.
What exactly makes UX-focused companies successful? They …
1. See Design as More Than Just Aesthetics
When we talk about a company being “UX design-led”, we are not just referring to the attractiveness of its products. A company which indeed follows a UX design philosophy is as concerned with user satisfaction and enjoyment during every interaction with the company and its products, as it is with the physical look and feel of what it is selling. For instance, if you had to use a manual to use the iPhone for the first time, this would not be a good design, no matter how beautiful the phone looks, or how nice it feels in your hand. When a product is not user-friendly or creates a bad user experience, that equals a fundamentally flawed or “bad” design.
Another example: If you could only drive for two hours with a Tesla before the gas ran out: this would create a bad user experience for the driver (and potential passengers) and would be a design flaw, despite it not being an aesthetic consideration. You may have already noticed that the words ‘design’ and ‘UX’ are used interchangeably in some circles, and because of this, for those new to the field, it can be hard to gain clarity on what ‘UX’ really means. While good design embraces great UX – at least in the ideal case – this only adds to the confusion.
At CareerFoundry, we would argue that UX is not just an element of good design, but the key ingredient to great design. This is because innovation or aesthetics alone will not make a successful product – only when it’s user-friendly it will take off.
Example: Remember the BlackBerry – the most popular business phone of its time? Well, when the app economy launched and business applications started to be increasingly mobile, BlackBerry maker RIM faltered as it failed to replicate the convenience and accessibility that other smartphones offered to access work tools.
2. Sell Experiences, Not Products
When you buy an iPhone or a BMW, you are not just buying a phone or a car; you are buying an identity and joining an “exclusive” club. The brand identity becomes the customer’s identity. That is what we mean by “experience beyond product” – the customer receives much higher value from a product than just the product itself. But how do the mentioned companies manage to create experiences beyond their products? By focusing on the user experience from the very first step in the product development, that is how.
Think of Airbnb: Even though it is an entirely online platform, the most important part of the user experience happens offline – handing over the keys, the stay in the accommodation, the checkout. Typically, for online platforms, it is tough to guide offline interactions, but Airbnb – a company that is known for its heavy focus on UX – is managing offline interactions by utilising smartphone technology. By sending requests via text message, response times are fast, reminiscent of a hotel experience. Through the introduction of the Superhost-Program, it offers incentives to hosts to provide professional, delightful experiences to guests.
3. Make “Delight” a Number One KPI
UX-led companies strive to exceed the expectations of their users time and again. “Delight” is the leading thought of great design, i.e. an intuitive, positively surprising and delightful/joyful experience. If the whole company is focused on, and measured by, creating delight, then the chances are high that it can deliver that. However, it takes a whole organisation living, breathing and thinking delight for this philosophy to succeed.
4. Make UX the Company Philosophy
How do Apple, Nike and IBM manage to consistently deliver a great design and product experience for their customers? Let me tell you: by focusing the whole organisation on design. This is also called a (UX) design culture.
For example at Apple, every employee in the organisation is responsible for thinking about user friendliness. The organisation is structured in a way that encourages and supports great UX design. In the grand scheme of things, this is the secret sauce that makes the product so much more successful than if a single design team were to think about user-friendliness.
5. Understand Customers
Design-oriented companies typically put a high emphasis on creating a positive user experience. Therefore, they invest significantly in the area of user experience (UX) and employ a good ratio of user experience designers. It also means that they gather user feedback in the strategy phase of a project, and then again at every stage of the project after that.
Since this UX focus leads to a much deeper understanding of their customers, they are in a much better position to create products that fit users needs, and they also save a lot of time and resources by not creating features that customers do not want.
Not convinced yet? Here some final stats on why UX-led companies can stand out from the competition, generate more happy customers and manage to turn such happy customers into repeat customers:
- Judgments on website credibility are 75% based on a site’s overall aesthetics.
- 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
- First impressions are 94% design-related.