User Experience (UX) design, while by no means new, is certainly not part of every business’ culture

It does not matter if it is an agency or internal design department at a corporation, there are still many organizations who have not embraced a user-focused approach to design. If you work in one of those organizations and are looking to make the case to your boss about building a UX culture, this article will offer a roadmap for getting UX adopted into your business.

Before we get into the specifics, let me share some background

Previously, I was in a position where UX was not part of our modus operandi. Our business embodied an engineering-based culture through and through. The project kicked off with an analyst or developer gathering functional requirements, no research was conducted, the application was “designed” by developers without the help of a designer, the customers were not included in the process, and testing involved functional testing and not usability testing.

The applications met the functional specs, but they were not always the most emotionally compelling or aesthetically pleasing. And, not surprisingly, they were not always the most usable in a modern UX context. Sound familiar?

Apps met functional specs but weren’t emotionally compelling or the most usable. Sound familiar?

Now that is not to say the customers were not pleased; in fact, they generally were, but as all of us UX practitioners know, customers are not always the best at envisioning what could be, and so the fact that these apps had much more potential to enable them was lost on them.

At a later point in our evolution, we were acquired by a new business partner

As a result, new opportunities seemed within reach. I had a vision that we might be able to mold the culture into a design-minded culture that puts UX at the forefront of the value proposition. But how?

I began advocating for the case of design and educating on the value of UX methods. I would mention quantifiable stats similar to those from the Design Value Index that demonstrated “Design-driven companies outperform the S&P 500 by 219%.” When doing this, I always made sure to frame it in business speak, and not design or tech lingo so that the leadership would take notice. Eventually, they did.

When making the case for design & UX to leaders, do it in business terms without tech lingo

Finally, with their ears now attuned to the potential of UX, I moved in to prove its value. Knowing that this had to be a win, I developed the following criteria to achieve my goal.

Foundations of a UX Culture

1. Don’t Make It Too Hard

The goal here is to prove that UX methodology should be adopted in your business culture, not to solve cancer; and though the latter is a worthy goal that IT and design can contribute to, work on that after you have adopted a UX approach. For now, pick an easy win.

Pick something that is low hanging fruit. Keep in mind you will likely want to do this quickly and with a small budget and team. The less resources you have to throw at it, the bigger the win can be, and thus the greater your chances of having UX adopted by leadership.

2. Define the KPIs (key performance indicators)

If you are going to be able to prove the success of a UX project, it needs to be quantifiable. While all the talk of Apple offering a better experience than Microsoft is likely true, a major reason that debate rages on is because it is mostly opinion and not evidence based arguments. To avoid a similar scenario, cut the fluff.

Useful and emotionally compelling products may be our goal in the long run, but for right now focus on what you can easily quantify. You are going to need to show your leadership the hard numbers. So you need to develop relevant KPIs to base the success on. Point blank, demonstrate how the product is performing today, and hopefully how it is performing better after the UX work.

3. Pick an Existing Product

New products are a blast to work on, but they also lack a baseline for your KPIs. So for the sake of your proof of concept, select an existing product that you already have data on. If possible, find an existing product that your gut is telling you has a great deal of room for improvement.

This will help you easily hit the KPIs, and if this product happens to be failing and you turn it around with your UX methods, you could even be hailed as a hero.

4. Pick Relevant Methods You’re Competent In

There is no room for learning or error. You may only get one chance to prove the value of embedding UX in your culture. So don’t jump to the occasion before you are ready. Make sure you have followed the previous steps, but also make sure you have done your homework and properly trained yourself in UX methods.

Maybe that means self-education or a certificate program. Maybe it means you conduct some UX work outside of your job to practice. That is up to you, but however, you go about it, be ready. You will need to select the most fitting research and design methods that can produce the biggest impact.

5. When Presenting, Keep Your Audience in Mind

While it may be true that the best business people are artists, most are not. Keep that in mind and drop the UX lingo when presenting your findings to the leadership. When preparing a business case, consider how to frame your findings in a business context. Leaders and managers are looking for success, which ultimately comes down to dollars and cents. So to the degree that you can tie your KPIs into financial projections, do it.

Leaders are looking for success in dollars and cents, so tie UX KPIs to financial projections

Also, keep in mind that changing a culture is a process, not an overnight phenomenon. So lay out a path forward of how you would see embedding UX into the business design. This should involve what new services you would like to offer, how they are going to be priced, and what kind of resources you need to support this business model extension.

Selling a UX Culture

If you do all of this effectively and demonstrate a win with your proof of concept UX work, it will be hard for leadership to deny the value of embedding UX in your business culture. But after you reach this stage, keep in mind the real journey has just begun. Achieving success with low hanging fruit is great to get something as valuable as UX adopted, but once it is part of your business culture, you need to go further. Now it is time to push past the easy wins, and change the world through UX design!