Written by: Ariel Verber
Product Designer, Write & Creator of Felipe for Sketch
When we discuss, teach or practice the goals of UX design, we usually focus on enhancing user satisfaction with a product. The core values for this goal include empathy, ethics, and usability, which are all crucial in order for us to successfully enhance user satisfaction.
But while mastering user experience design is important, CEOs and Product Managers of private companies usually hire UI/UX designers for a very specific end goal: Helping the business grow.
This is usually achieved by increasing crucial business metrics: conversion rates, retention (loyalty), improving brand perception, and more.
Designers who don’t understand that don’t have a good chance of getting a seat at the table. They would keep talking about goals that are very rarely appreciated by top-level executives, and it makes total sense.
Finding the right balance
Often, user experience and business goals go hand in hand. A simple & clear pricing page would most likely save time and unnecessary headaches to the user, and also increase the conversion rate. Everybody wins.
Sometimes, they don’t — making it too easy to cancel a subscription might make some unsatisfied users feel a positive relief, but also increase cancellation rate and the company would lose a significant amount of money.
On the other hand, making it very hard to cancel a subscription would negatively affect the lives and bank accounts of the people you should care about the most, your users (I’m looking at you, Apple).
A good product designer is required to find the best balance between these two goals —for example, making it easy enough to cancel the subscription, while still aiming to maximize the number of users who willingly choose to stay.
Dropbox has an interesting method to do just that. They let you cancel your subscription, but first ask you some question regarding what went wrong with their services, attempting to offer solutions for your problems. Cancellation is still a few clicks away, so they were trying to optimize revenue while still being user-centric.
Designers who want to focus only on empathy, and don’t want to ever prioritize business goals over user satisfaction, should consider a design job that fits this description — educational jobs, research, governmental, or nonprofit where the money doesn’t depend on the users.
In reality, most jobs are not like that and would require us to always bring measurable results to our business-oriented boss.
That’s why a good product designer needs to start every task by first understanding why it’s important for the business. Why nailing this feature would help the business grow. Only then, proceed to the usual user experience methodologies — learn who the users are, what are their pain points, what are they trying to accomplish, etc.. Potentially also backing it up with relevant research and creating some assumptions regarding both impact on business metrics and the impact on user experience.
Just don’t join the dark side
Sometimes in my career, I was asked to design solutions that were potentially good for the business short-term goals, but bad for the users.
This actually happens quite often to many designers. Designers who work in the gambling industry, porn or piracy will experience this very often, but even designers who work for legitimate companies will work on such ideas.
These ‘solutions’ are called dark patterns. They come in all sorts of ways, with the common thing about them — they exploit human weaknesses as an attempt to reach business goals more easily. For example, Confirmshaming is an attempt to make more users take an offer because refusing this offer would make them feel negative feelings, like shame.
With great power comes great responsibility
If you joined the company as a User Experience designer, it is part of your responsibilities to raise a flag if you think a red line is about to be crossed, according to values that you see as important and are widely accepted in the UX design community.
Of course, this is not only your responsibility. You have more people in your team, and they’re supposed to be good humans too. Still, your job as a designer is to properly communicate to your team the importance of being user-centric and to try and influence them as much as you can in a positive way towards this direction.
If you fail to do so, and you feel like you’re constantly being pressured to design things that are not compliant with your values, perhaps you’re not working in a healthy environment for you, and it’s time to start thinking about your next steps.
But if you manage to be loyal to your ethics and still help your business grow, that’s great! You’re one of those awesome designers the world needs.
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