09 February 2022

Design your way to better business performance with UX

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What do Google’s homepage, Netflix’s autoplay feature and Uber’s ride order process have in common? Besides all being big tech companies, they also share a laser sharp focus on giving their users the smoothest possible experience. In fact, their excellent design has played a major part in their success. But User Experience (UX) Design isn’t just something for booming Big Tech companies. It’s not even all that new: the term has been around since the 1990’s. However, many companies have not yet adopted UX design as a key to business success. Tom Dedecker, UX Lead at Telenet, demystifies the importance of UX design in our latest Beyond Digital discussion.

Towards a new definition of design

When you think about what design means, your mind probably goes to some sort of visual design: your company logo, a poster for an event you’re hosting or the way your new website looks. UX, however, takes design to a whole new level. “It’s not just what you see on the screen,” explains Tom. “The entire experience that a customer has when buying your product or using your service, is part of a design. It’s all about taking into account what a user needs and wants from beginning to end.”

Examples of great UX design are Google’s incredibly simple homepage design, which has hardly changed over the last 20 years. But don’t be fooled by its basic appearance: a lot of ongoing thought goes into crafting a search engine homepage that does exactly what’s needed, nothing more, nothing less. Uber is another company that gets it right. From ordering a ride to arriving at your destination, down to the payment process; it flows so smoothly that you almost forget how much effort went into creating that experience.

“Whether you’re working within a team or across departments, UX should be part of everybody’s mindset. Thinking about design isn’t limited to a single team, or a specific project phase.”

Tom Dedecker, UX Lead @ Telenet

“When design fails, users get frustrated or disappointed,” Tom points out. “What makes design great is when it offers a frictionless, seamless experience, leaving customers feeling at ease and contented. And those happy customers are much more likely to stay with you.”

It’s no surprise then, that a McKinsey study found that companies that excel at design tend to significantly outperform industry-benchmark growth when it comes to revenues and returns to shareholders.

UX design as a business strategy

Outperforming the market seems like an indisputable reason for any company to embrace UX design. “But it’s not just a switch that you flip, rather an ongoing process.”

“When we launched the new ONE telecom packages at Telenet, I focused on following a data-driven way of working. Don’t base yourself on a gut-feeling or an assumption,” Tom expands: “It’s great if you have a considerable data set already, but you can also start with a hypothesis and use A/B testing to expand your data set from there.”

Focusing on design also means putting an end to silo mentality. “Whether you’re working within a team or across departments, UX should be part of everybody’s mindset. Thinking about design isn’t limited to a single team, or a specific project phase.”

Always thinking about design may sound like a daunting task, but it also leaves room for continuous improvement. “It’s an iterative process, so don’t expect perfection from the start. Instead, begin with the minimum viable product (MVP) and keep improving on that as you learn from the incoming data.”

Finally, it’s essential to always put the user first. “That means that even if you work across different teams – part of the customer journey is owned by the sales department, another piece is managed by the customer service team – the user should never be able to notice those walls. It should be seamless.”

(Want to join the next meeting of Beyond Digital to learn, share, and shape the future of digital in Belgium? Sign up for more information here!)

Bigger is not necessarily better

Worried that you need a bigger design team to achieve UX success? You can rest assured: it’s not necessarily the biggest companies or the biggest design teams that score better.

Tom: “From a beginner’s approach to UX, with a focus on the visual design only, or seeing design as one part of the process, to a more mature approach, where UX design is part of every step of the way or even an integral part of the business strategy, we see that the team size does not increase along with the level of maturity.”

In fact, companies who find themselves at the intermediate level of design maturity, tend to have the biggest design teams, while the most mature and least mature teams are similar in size. “This goes to show that team size isn’t everything,” Tom clarifies. “The outcomes are defined more by how design is viewed within a company than by how many people are working on it.”

"Even if you work across different teams – the user should never be able to notice those walls. It should be seamless.”

Tom Dedecker, UX Lead @ Telenet

Trying to level up your design maturity isn’t necessarily a clear cut path. Tina Turay-Benoit, Lead UX at AXA shares: “We’re at the solid intermediate level right now. Our UX team is pushing towards a more integrated approach, but we can see that in practice, more evangelization and accompaniment need to be done towards our stakeholders.”

Getting and keeping everybody on board with prioritizing design may take some effort, confirms Tom. “Key in convincing people of the importance of UX design, is sharing all the data and frameworks with everyone in a central place,” he advises. “Documenting the steps you’ve taken as well as the results, and constantly showing proof that it works, is paramount to keeping everyone engaged.”

The good news is that in the digital age there are more ways than ever to get feedback from customers, to test what works and what doesn’t. And that is the beauty of a data-driven approach to design. After all, which marketing manager can resist hard facts that prove that adopting a UX mindset pays off?

Want to join in on the discussion? Ariad’s digital professionals knowledge sharing club Beyond Digital brings together future-forward individuals working across industries in the largest brands in Belgium. No member fees, just a community of ambitious minds! Apply here for more information about this monthly event.