UX – 4 Tough Challenges in User Experience you can overcome

Ask anyone proficient in User Experience what they think the biggest challenge they face in their role is and you’ll get a myriad of different replies.  User Experience of course focuses entirely on the user.  Without the user, User Experience (UX) effectively becomes irrelevant.  However with the insurmountable amount of products that are on sale today, they all have users that buy them.

Amazon Logo.

Amazon had over 200 millions different products available online (circa Jan 2014)

For example, as of January 2014 Amazon reportedly had over 200 million ‘different‘ products available online.  All of those products were created because its respective inventor believed there was a user need.  Some have sold more than others but the more successful products have taken the world by storm.  That cannot be based on mere chance.  There had to be some degree of UX applied to the process of those great product’s being conceptualised to being delivered to a customer’s doorstep.

Applying UX to any product albeit physical or digital does have its challenges.  I’ve met and overcome many challenges in UX and below are a few that you may have come up against.

Time

Whilst there are many tools out there to help hasten parts of the UX process, the fact will always remain that it can take time to produce a good, useable deliverable. If the proper amount of time is allocated to the process, the output is always going to be that the quality and accuracy of the deliverable will be high. This means the ROI will very likely increase and very quickly in some instances. If you are working with colleagues across different teams helping them to understand this can be a challenge – especially groups such as “sales” or “pre-sales“.  People within those groups in general are used to things being done at a fast pace, after all this is what their day-to-day lives consist of, quick actions, juggling multiple opportunities, customers and so on.  So an internal education process to the relevant departments, teams or people is important to help them understand that the process will take time.

Here are a few suggestions to help overcome the challenge around time:

  • Use downtime to evangelise User Experience within the organisation, formally and informally.
  • Use the tools and templates designed to make your day-to-day role more efficient to your advantage.
  • Don’t be afraid to push back on tight time constraints from the beginning.
  • Understand and get to know your UX processes thoroughly, this enables you to set the correct expectations.

Audience

A big misconception here is that many stakeholders believe that they are like their users.  Many believe they know what their current and future customers needs and wants are.  Stakeholders may indeed know a lot about their business and may even attempt to give you all the data ‘they‘ think you need to make the correct UX recommendations.  This is where the challenge lies.  Users have different attitudes, needs and goals.  By definition that stakeholder or project owner is ‘atypical‘ and this can be one of the hardest lessons they may have to learn.  A simple suggestion help to overcome this challenge is to:

  • Help them to understand the users viewpoint and not to focus on their own. User testing (various methods) can help to make such a task easier.

A good example of this was Google Buzz.  They ran tests on 10’s of thousands of their own employees but when the product was released, a tonne of complaints highlighted one simple truth.  You are not your users – it doesn’t matter how informed or proficient you are.  This is what is called biased user testing.  Internally those people may have found nothing wrong with a given feature and of course they wouldn’t because they are advocates of the company they work for.  However the company’s ‘users‘ of course had different goals, needs and ergo created the misalignment of  research that Google had already gathered.  Where did they go wrong?  They thought that they were their users.

You are not your users – it doesn’t matter how informed or proficient you are.

Buy-in

Getting buy-in into the process, it’s outcomes and hopeful project success is another challenge.  Mainly because some pockets of users and more importantly stakeholders do not always see the initial value in UX.  When it comes to stakeholders, if they are not involved in someway in the process they will naturally feel alienated.  Excluding stakeholders from the process itself or knowledge thereof can create a layer or ignorance and lack of understanding which can lead to a misinterpretation of how UX can positively affect the project. So here are a few suggestions to help overcome that:

  • Empathy is key, understand the stakeholders point and perspective.  We do this already with the user in UX.
  • Understand what our stakeholders needs are and align our deliverables or ‘to-do’s’ with those needs – not just the users themselves.
  • Don’t push for your UX recommendations too hard. Help them through the thought process, you’ll gain more supporters and less fault finders that way.
  • Implementing different workshop and process activities is key if you want to involve every participant, albeit stakeholder or user.  People are different and have different triggers.
  • Use ROI to help put your point across. This goes a long way in getting buy-in especially if the people you’re addressing are money focused.
  • Lastly, work out who are your advocates.  Who is onside and supports the cause? They are the ones who will help champion the buy-in you need.

Consistency vs Innovation

I originally came across this thought on Quora. UX Designer Jesse Bilstsen states, “Start with consistency and build up to innovation.  Consistency means that the human experience is predictable and recognizable”.

“We too often get caught up trying to reinvent-the-wheel in many cases”.

This makes perfect sense.  Because re-inventing the wheel isn’t a good use of thought process energy.  Innovation on the other hand is great but not for the sacrifice of good user experience.  That may vary per project based on the requirements you receive but however radical a concept, the user experience has to have some human logic. How do you address the balance?  It can vary depending on what you are working on but in general I personally start with what is expected, then build upon that with innovation.

These are just a few challenges of the many I’ve faced and ways I’ve used to overcome them.

If you could sum up in ONE word what your biggest challenge in UX is, what would it be?

3 Comments

  1. H says:

    Great blog Desi. The audience comments resonating particularly as a noted trend of late is both colleagues and stakeholders starting with ‘the user might find that…etc etc?! Opinion unbalances the discussion, in what is still seen as a subjective topic. “Watch what users do, not what they say”. You know where I got that from, right?!? H

  2. Helena says:

    Another great post Desi. The one word challenge – “Expectation”. Theirs and mine. Theirs vs. Mine and so on. I could write a blog on this alone. Wouldn’t change the job for the world!

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