When the digital revolution first spawned the user experience discipline, it was a radically new idea. Organizations simply weren’t designing and developing products and experiences from a user-first perspective and rightfully jumped at the opportunity to innovate their businesses.
The idea of user experience has since become broader. It’s no longer just about designing wireframes and interfaces with the user at the fore; it’s also about identifying and prioritizing customer pain points — across a brand’s entire ecosystem (websites, apps, service layers and platforms, customer service, and analog touchpoints, such as in-store) — and then solving them through research and data analysis, strategy, and design.
This means that brands need to take a hard look at the individual components that make up their unique ecosystems and create an experience that spans and unites the full customer journey. For example, optimizing the experience for an airline would be everything from discovering the destination to the flight experience, to what happens when the traveler arrives at their destination. Or within the complex web of personal healthcare, it’s about creating an integrated seamless patient experience from health data access, to lab testing, to engaging with physicians, to wellness programs, to diagnosis and treatment plans.
Delivering this type of experience at scale requires effort from every part of an organization.
That is why it’s time to do away with the UX discipline as we know it.
It may sound radical, but UX is now a universal task that has moved from the domain of the few into the work practice of everyone. It may not be in every job title, but it’s part of every job. In fact, user experience designers can specialize in and be passionate about entirely different things — even within the same organization. Some may be strategic researchers who look to uncover consumer behavioral insights, while others may be writers skilled at finding the perfect copy to put on a button.
This new approach to user experience allows a user-first philosophy to infiltrate everything a company does, ensuring that everyone — not just a single siloed group — keeps the user front-and-center. It should result in advertising content that is more personal and emotionally resonant; benefits that serve real need-states; and digital products that align with consumer behaviors and offer true value. And it means employees can get closer to the work they love.
Already the business world has accepted the idea that innovation can come from anywhere; it now needs to understand that user experience must come from everywhere.
Of course, none of this happens quickly or easily. Extending responsibility for the user experience across your organization requires at least a six-month plan to ensure you can deliver the right work with the right people — without disrupting everything. So how can you get there?
Start with education. The process begins with leaders who can define the disciplines and skills necessary for the new roles. You should discuss the transition with managers at all levels, addressing the practical implications of the reorganization, as well as tactical necessities like resourcing and recruiting. Addressing implications to the work process is essential, as team roles and mindsets will need to shift. For example, some employees may need education or re-education on what it means to design with user-centricity e.g. designing solutions based on the user’s needs rather than the business’s offerings. Then, once they understand what’s happening, encourage them to pass the information on to everyone else.
Hire differently. Rather than hunting for people who “do UX,” you need to look for those with talent in experience design, interaction design, content engineering, user research, data science, and audience engagement.
Be consistent. To prepare for the reorganization, incorporate long-term planning that gives all managers an understanding of why, how, and when it should all come together. That way, employees receive the same answers and information no matter which supervisor they approach. It’s vital to continually reinforce the new normal to remove any perceptions and patterns from the past.
Anticipate and limit pushback. No one likes change. It will be scary and frustrating, especially for your current UX team, whose current roles will morph into more specialized positions. You can get ahead of this problem by consistently clarifying and communicating the roles and responsibilities of different groups.
Demonstrate and communicate success. The best way to implement any new idea is to start winning. This shouldn’t be hard. With users at the center of every step of the solution, you can marry all your efforts to your business goals. You’ll soon see that killing your siloed user experience team reduces friction, increases effectiveness, and results in a better work product.
Dan Gardner is CEO of Code and Theory.
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