6 Tips To Build A User-Centered Design Department At Your Company

In Culture & Management, User Research by Adrian Garcia

UX, UI and UCD are the buzzwords in the tech industry today. ChaiOne’s success and clientele list is a testament that this mentality and type of work is now permeating into enterprise software. Many enterprise companies are creating UCD departments responsible for sprinkling “UX” into the design of internally developed software. This is great, but it comes with challenges, often in the form of other departments and groups being resistant to change that limits the effectiveness of user-centered design efforts. Below is a list of tips for those implementing UCD practices in a company trying to focus on UX.

Tip 1: Believe you are a change agent. Be it. Live it.

Setting up a department and introducing new techniques for the first time is no easy task. If you do not think of yourself as leading change, you will fail. This means knowing what to do and doing it. Sometimes, it is better to say “sorry” rather than “please”.

Tip 2: Figure out the obstacles you are dealing with and address them directly.

There will always be people resistant to change. To overcome this, you’ll need to identify their concerns, correct any misunderstandings, and figure out how to compromise.

For example, a concern may be that “UCD is too expensive”. Nothing can be further from the truth. It can be viewed as a risk-mitigating process that protects teams from needing to redo an entire project, and that helps projects stay on time and on budget.

Tip 3: Make your way into the process.

Too many believe that as long as guru “UX Designers” are at the company, products will be user-friendly and effective. This is absolutely untrue. It doesn’t matter how skilled a designer is – they can’t design something highly effective if they don’t know anything about the users, the scenarios and the environments they are designing for. Furthermore, engineering usable and effective products is the result of a process more so than the expertise of any one individual.

To help ensure usability techniques and practices are executed, you will need to be a part of the project scoping and procurement process. Unless things like contextual inquiries, usability testing and prototyping is budgeted and planned for in the project’s timeline, it will not be executed.

Tip 4: Track performance.

Right out of the gate, instead of trying to catch the highest profile project in the company, go after a redesign. Factor in usability testing, or some sort of KPI benchmarking for a metric with a real monetary value at the start of the project. Then go through the UCD process and compare the old design’s metrics to the redesign. If you can show the metrics are significantly better for the new design than the old design and that the delta results in more money, people will pay attention. It is even better if the redesign is focused on a problem that has a long history of failure.

Tip 5: Track the money.

This relates to Tip 4. If you redesign an existing application that significantly increases workers’ performance, then calculate the ROI associated with the change. Work with business analysts to make the report as granular as possible. Validate calculations with actual cash flow if possible in order to strengthen your argument.

Tip 6: Design the message.

Any success stories advocating the virtues of UCD need to be promoted throughout the company. However, do not promote this message in an email or word document. It needs to be in a well-designed deck or infographic. Make sure to really spend time on visual treatment.

Go out into the field where the product lives and get photos and then design a report that is very nice to look at that delivers a positive message. It needs to be a document people want to share. If you’re lucky, it will find its way up to the executive team. Such a document would need to highlight the problem, the solution and emphasize the money involved from previous ROI calculations. Also, be sure to emphasize that the cause of the success is the UCD framework and that through its adoption, all projects can be this successful. With success stories that are well designed like this, it will be easier to gain traction in your organization.

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