User-centricity is for everyone

We’ve been talking a lot recently about assessing product maturity – an organisation’s capability and desire to successfully deliver user-centric products and services.

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How user-centric is your organisation?

In case you missed it, here’s your introduction to product maturity and the framework we use to assess it 🔎

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We know that user-centric businesses with a high level of product maturity reap rewards when it comes to profitability, market share, and all-round success.

We also know that enterprise businesses by and large are switching on to the business value of UX, and have at least some appetite to improve the maturity of their organisation in this area.

However, there can still be a tendency for leadership teams to assume that perfect product maturity can be achieved by hiring great designers (or partnering with a great external UX agency like Lighthouse 😉) and leaving them to take care of it.

Achieving great UX design is not just a function or talent of individuals, it is an organizational characteristic.

Lorraine Chapman & Scott Plewes
A UX Maturity Model: Effective Introduction of UX into Organizations

Successful product maturity means embedding the user in the heart of every activity and decision. User- centricity isn’t just something for the product and design people to be concerned with, it’s everybody’s business.

In this article we’ll take a look at two crucial areas of a business where upskilling in modern UX techniques and enhancing user focus will make a significant difference.

User-centric development

Traditionally, a developer’s domain tends to be that of technical rather than user requirements.

You could be forgiven for assuming that their priority should be cranking out clean code that follows best practice, not worrying about users.

At Config a couple of years ago, Mina Bach described a situation where as a designer she only saw the engineering team, who were busily coding away separately, “once every two weeks, and nobody thought that was strange.”

It turned out that this fragmented culture where designers like Mina gatekept the relationship with users and “threw designs over the wall” was causing massive inefficiencies.

The distance between users and developers meant that developers had little motivation or ability to think beyond what was explicitly laid out in a given brief, or care about why a brief ultimately existed.

Only working on what was directly in front of them inevitably ended up in misunderstandings, filling in gaps left by designers without any insight into the ultimate goal of their work.

As you can imagine, this led to delays, wasted time and money, and frustration all round.

On the flip side, when developers are given skills to understand and empathise with users, through joining in some user research activities or running testing on features, they’re empowered to see more clearly the reasoning behind their activities.

As Simon Sinak taught the world, We all naturally care more strongly about ‘why’ than ‘what.’

Similarly, when developers are involved in the decision making process at an earlier stage, their level of investment in and care about the product’s future naturally increases.

A user-centric development team who grasp the bigger picture of why design decisions have been made, and even are able to push back with better solutions for users where they see them, are a development team who will build better products.

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Making devs better designers - what we learned at Config 2021

Read more about Mina’s talk and why we agree that devs should design 👾

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The C-suite and users

It’s a bit of a generalisation, but many organisations – especially those in more traditional sectors – lack a significant user focus at board or senior stakeholder level.

Even where there is representation from people who have some understanding of modern user-centric methods, perhaps in the form of a CTO or chief digital officer, senior leadership may not have a strong grasp of the user journey.

We’re not saying a CEO should be the one to run user testing or that your finance director should be writing your surveys (although sitting in and assisting with these tasks once in a while could well be a worthwhile activity), but more that an organisation becomes more mature when leadership decisions are led by user insight.

Bringing design thinking into our world is a revolution…Having a partnership like this one where people understand how important design is in everything we do is really going to change our business.

Diane Karusisi
CEO, Bank of Kigali

All too often, business-critical decisions are made by a small group of people in suits and in a boardroom.

Whilst senior stakeholders with sector expertise and experience can form a strong vision for their organisation, their intuition about what’s best for the product – however finely tuned – will always benefit from being augmented by user insight.

Business decisions rooted in robustly researched user insights are business decisions based on data, not dreams.

When they lead by example, a forward-thinking C-suite can inspire teams across the organisation to prioritise user needs and create a culture of empathy, collaboration, and continuous improvement.

User-centric thinking is for everyone

Whilst we’ve called out two specific examples here of engineering and leadership teams, the truth is that anyone in an organisation – and of course the organisation itself – will benefit from honing their user focus.

We regularly use fun, engaging and interactive training workshops to bring the key skills of modern UX design to businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Whether there’s a specific niche you’re keen to focus on, or you’re looking to gain a broader understanding of user-centric methods, we’re here to help you advance your product maturity and take your team to the next level. 🚀

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