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Why Your Project Costs Are Actually Higher Without UX

Incorporating user experience (UX) design is a time and money-saving activity for businesses. Most companies see a return on investment ranging from $10 to $100 per dollar spent on UX.

Every experience and user interface (UI) is designed by somebody for someone. If there aren’t dedicated UX/UI designers on a project, oftentimes business analysts or developers are the ones designing. While BAs and developers are undoubtedly experts in their crafts, they are not designers. So as it relates to UX/UI design, they are being paid to do work others are better trained to do. 

User-Centered Design (designing with users in mind) ensures that your technology investments will meet customer needs and usability standards, resulting in higher user engagement, greater system efficiency and satisfied customers. Interaction designers quickly prototype and iterate UI designs based on user feedback before any code is written. This combination of expertise and process prevents expensive rework later because the system is designed right the first time.

Including UX as a part of your development process doesn’t mean adding time and dollars to budgets. It means using your resources smarter and more effectively.

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself as you evaluate your project workflow: 

  • Who is designing? Are they the right people for this project? 
  • What kinds of design activities are they using?  
  • How might total project costs be reduced if a designer was hired? (Keep in mind this can significantly reduce development and re-work hours.)
  • How much could be saved by improving efficiencies, increasing user engagement, and customer satisfaction?

The answers to these questions will reveal whether introducing a designer to a design/build process would be valuable. 

Where do you start if you want to try a different model to improve usability and decrease overall project development costs?

  1. Understand what “design” means in a product development world. We’re not talking about colors, logos or look-and-feel (visual design), we’re talking about workflow, navigation, information structure and use of standard interaction controls (interaction design). Get your team a good interaction designer, let that person talk with users and iterate the design via low-fidelity prototypes Sketch or Invision.
  2. Find out when design is happening in your current development process and who is doing it. Then focus on shifting discovery and design prototyping to a UX resource. Use inexpensive design prototyping tools to quickly iterate UI concepts and (here’s the KEY to success) test designs with users in the early product design and planning stages.
  3. Evaluate your team based on their actual activities and capabilities, not their titles. You’re not “doing UX” just because you have a UI developer. Unless your front-end developer is spending as much time talking with users as she is coding and bug fixing, you’re not there. UI developers are necessarily entrenched within development teams and are given full workloads writing code, performing QA, and bug fixing. After your UX team has done their job, your UI developer will code faster and have less re-work.
  4. Finally, code faster and with more confidence that you’re building the right solution. Remember, you shifted design time from other team members to your UX expert. You will realize that time trade-off in shorter development timelines. If the UX and UI has already been designed, tested with users and reviewed with stakeholders, the rest of the team has a LOT less work to do. By this time, developers know the actual scope of what’s coming. They have fewer design decisions to debate and they have interactive design prototypes to follow that spell out what they need to build.

It is a common misconception that Including UX in the development process adds time and resources to budgets. Including designers in the process simply means a shift in investment that ultimately leads to more efficient project timelines. Through an upfront investment in prototyping solutions, testing them with users, then iterating on the designs before development resources are committed, a company can prevent expensive development rework after the product is built. 

In fact, designers can speed up the development process by providing developers with well-defined requirements and style guides. Rather than building – then fixing – a product, solutions can be created, rapidly tested, iterated upon, and validated, then developed with confidence.  Developers are able to work faster because they don’t have to guess about what it should look like – what they are making is illustrated and documented for them.

Every project impacts a user’s experience. For prioritization purposes, determine which projects need a better user experience and focus efforts there.