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How Too Much UX Research Can Kill Your ROI

Software Dev
UI
UX
Aug
2

Why software needs UI and UX

When building a new software product or iterating on a previous version, how the user interacts with the product is just as important as what the software can do. Concepts of UI became particularly popularized by the likes of Alan Kay, Larry Tesler, and Dan Ingalls, among others, during their tenure at Xerox PARC in the mid-1970s. This concept was further expanded by Don Norman, who coined the term “User Experience,” in 1993 at Apple.

General UI, UX, MVP, and ROI definitions

For those who may not be familiar with all the acronyms here, here is a quick overview in terms of a software product:

  • UI (User Interface): How the user can interact with your software. These are the buttons, text, images, toggles, sliders, and more that allow the user to access the functionality of your software.
  • UX (User Experience): Building on the idea of the interface, UX is a much broader term to describe the whole experience of the software. This may include mapping screen flow, reducing load time, or delighting an end-user with a surprising interaction.

    • You can watch Don Norman explain total UX.
  • MVP (Minimum Viable Product): Building products quickly that are scalable is a difficult task. The MVP solves some of the pain points by freeing the company to build a product that lacks robust features so that they can immediately begin testing functionality with real users and make future iterations that their customers would actually use.
  • ROI (Return on Investment): When building a product, hopefully, you receive more revenue than what you spent to make the product. The goal is to receive many more dollars back (returns) per every dollar you spend (investment).

Ideal world of early investment in UX

We can all agree that you wouldn’t have to choose between UI and UX in an ideal world. In fact, you would get all the features you want at incredible speeds that meet every user’s needs. All while being so cost-effective that profit is coming in too quickly to spend it.

Now, back to reality.

All products have a limited budget and therefore have a limited amount of time that can be invested into each aspect of a product. We live in a world where efficiency is critical in a successful deployment.

To create a successful digital product, you need:

  • Functionality that solves a problem for a customer
  • A UI that allows the customer to access the functionality
  • A UX that allows the UI and functionality to make sense to a human

Spending months mapping out user journeys, creating micro-animations, completing user research, and brainstorming new delight–features all cost valuable time and money. However, if your company has the cash to burn through  and the philosophy of trying to release a finished product as close to perfection as possible, you may invest much more time and money before the product launch.

Photo by Harpal Singh on Unsplash

The reality of working within a budget

For the rest of us, mere mortals, there are budget constraints, time constraints, and time-sensitive competition limiting the amount to spend on UX development.

An MVP model may be an ideal way to start when attempting to understand your customer base more fully, stay within a modest budget, or beat a competitor to market. The MVP process entails developing the product’s functionality first – what pain point are you attempting to solve for your end-user? This first iteration should be limited to the critical functionality of the product – not all the wants you someday will add to your product.

Next, develop a basic (not bad) UI on top of that functionality. Creating a sustainable and scalable framework is key to further developing the product as V1.1, V2, and V3 are coming down the pipeline.

Following best practices on UX is key to building a UI and functionality that people actually want to use. The UX research and development should be limited. If you don’t have great functionality paired with great UI, there will never be a way of getting to excellent UX.

Using UX best practices to get 80% there

What are some basic UX principles to ensure that your product doesn’t drop the ball entirely on UX? Here are some basic best practices that can help keep your functionality and UI on track:

  • Limit functionality
  • A simple way to improve the experience is to limit the product’s utility to the core. This limitation allows for greater attention to the features you know matter most to your end-user. In addition, this allows more time to squash bugs that could create a sub-par experience.
  • Design for humans, not computers
  • UX is all about human-centered design. Don’t build a system requiring a person to remember a 12-digit code in their head. Functionality should never overshadow what a user is capable of. Instead, break down steps into bite-sized chunks that make sense for a human.
  • Understand your customer
  • If you design for a user but don’t truly understand them, your functionality and UI won’t resonate. It would be like you helping someone with a broken arm by putting a bandaid on it – it doesn’t really solve the pain point.
  • Make sure to test with real users, not just the user you fabricated in your mind. These tests aren’t required to be extensive 100+ user tests. This could be as simple as asking 5 contacts to try the software out.
  • Keep a consistent theme
  • Keep similar elements, similar. For example, if your buttons are blue, keep them blue unless you are trying to communicate something different with a specific button. Often UX can be improved by looking at all frames of a UI and checking for consistency.
  • Use actual content when possible in prototypes
  • You will only find awkward language, unclear labels, and distracting images when you can see them in the interface.
  • Rely on a team
  • Finding a team to work to solve your problem allows more eyes on potential hiccups or issues. Building with a small group allows for more extensive feedback and may open up new ideas you couldn’t come up with yourself.

Using profits to reinvest in UX

You can go to market faster by limiting your application’s or digital product’s functionality. This strategy offers 2 incredible advantages:

  1. You can begin to get user feedback to make sure future iterations continue to solve the end user’s pain points. This feedback could save you from building a feature that the end-user never actually wanted and will never use.
  2. You can begin to generate revenue from the product more quickly, which means you have more cash on hand to improve the product and, therefore, the user experience.

As users enjoy using your product, and you continue to release iterations that delight the user, you can take more time to focus on the enhancements that take the UX from 80% to 85%; then from 85% to 87%; and slowly the MVP will become SFP – a Solid–Featured Product. All while reducing your initial investment and ensuring that future expenses are put toward enhancing the product, not just adding more features.

Photo by Zan on Unsplash

Allowing ROI to dictate process

The cart should never lead the horse, and focusing primarily on profits makes it possible to create a subpar product that no person is actually interested in using. ROI is not primarily about profitability – it is about sustainability. It is about making your dollar stretch further so you can create a digital product that eventually has all the functionality you dreamed of.

No one wants to start building a product and run out of funds halfway through. However, you can improve your odds of success by committing to a strategy that looks at the long journey of launching, improving, and maintaining a digital product.

At Build Labs, sustainability is part of our DNA. We want to create phenomenal products that can continue solving users’ problems. Our process focuses on budget management and iterative techniques that work toward creating quality digital experiences for you and your customers.

Thomas Clapper
As Build Labs Head of Marketing, Thomas brings a decade worth of experience in technology, finance, education, and non-profits. Thomas has a passion for building great products that people love to use and connecting the right audience to that technology.