This post is co-authored by Susan Simkins.

Paul Boag, a well-known and highly respected user experience advocate, has just released a new book, User Experience Revolution.

The book takes aim at systemic organizational issues that actively breed an anti-user culture, whether it is intended or not.

What is User Experience?

User experience encompasses the user interaction with your products or services and the emotions that result. The ultimate end result is to meet the user’s needs and have them walk away with a positive experience.

A converse of this is a bad user experience, and it’s not just about websites. Sure, everyone hates the pop-over ads and slow loading times of websites, but user experience is applicable to every organization that is user-facing.

The United Airlines Fiasco

Paul Boag in his training video uses United Airlines as an example. Undoubtedly you’ve heard about the full flight where a passenger was forcibly removed when their staff needed the seats to service other customers down the line.

While saying the customer had a bad user experience is quite an understatement, Paul brings up a good point in regards to negative customer experiences. It used to be that a typical customer would complain to nine or ten of their friends. Now anybody with a negative experience can post about it on social media, where it is seen by many more people. In the case of United Airlines, it could take years to repair their brand, if ever, due to the negative backlash.

While it’s easy to pick on United Airlines, this user experience fallout can impact any user-facing organization.

Organizational Issues With User Experience

Boag mentioned several issues within an organization that can be detrimental to the user experience.

Lack of Customer Interaction

Not all tasks within an organization are customer-facing. However, Boag encourages all employees to have some customer interaction, even if it is for a brief amount of time. Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and Jetpack, requires all new employees work in support for a time, allowing them to learn the ins and outs of the products, the customers, and what can be done to improve the user’s experiences.

Fighting Between Departments

In his book, Boag mentioned an organization where two departments had been having a feud for over five years. Two managers had started a feud between the departments years earlier and then left the company. However, even years later, the resentment between departments was still present.

Departmental Silos

A departmental silo is when a department is content in keeping knowledge internal to the department and does not want to share this knowledge with other departments or the organization as a whole.

Culture of Fear

A culture of fear can arise from a number of reasons, but when present, will stifle ideas, contributions, and morale.

Boag mentioned a website project that was ready to launch. However, a stakeholder in IT blocked the idea for security reasons. While the security issues could have been addressed, the IT stakeholder was fearful for their job in the event of a security breach. As a result, the mere possibility of a security risk blocked someone else’s endeavor and prevented the organization from moving forward for that particular effort.

Changing Things From the Inside

Paul Boag gives hope to organizations struggling with putting forth a strong and positive user experience.

Find Passionate UX Colleagues

Find like-minded peers who care about UX. Have regular meetings. Do lunch-and-learns and demonstrate best practices and case studies. Perhaps start an internal conference.

User Testing

Everyone knows how a user should interact with a product or service, right? Wrong.

Without watching actual users use your products, there is no way to know exactly how a user will react.

A tip is to grab a colleague in an unrelated department and watch them interact with the product.

One example of this is WP Site Care’s in-depth analysis of task completion for the major content management systems.

Raise Customer Profiles

Remind people in your organization who the customer is. Boag recommends creating personas and making them visible throughout an organization.

An example of a persona is a customer at a fast food restaurant in the drive-thru. The customer ordering could have a vision disability such as being colorblind. The customer ordering could have four   screaming kids in the back, so if the speaker isn’t loud enough, this could cause a very unpleasant experience. The drive-thru waiting time could also be unreasonable, especially for someone on their lunch break.

Create a Vision for the Future

Selling management on a new idea can be difficult. Instead, create a prototype. An idea you can see, touch, and interact with is a much more compelling experience.

Get Management on Board

As the saying goes, sometimes it’s easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. We often rush to management for approval of an idea far too quickly. Instead, let the idea mature. And possibly create that prototype first.

Aim to come to management with a solution to a problem, and not just problems.

Establish New Metrics

Strive for a better user experience and establish specific, realistic, and measurable metrics for this.

Example metrics could be:

  • Decrease the bounce rate by 10%
  • Increase conversions by 2%

Ten Suggestions for Better UX

1. Show, Don’t Tell

A working prototype or video will communicate an idea better than a bulleted PowerPoint presentation. BigWing, my current employer, had a similar experience with its re-branding.

2. Get Colleagues in Front of Users

Don’t forget to eat your own dog food.

3. Create Workshops

Map the customer journey. Create collaborative wireframes.

4. Educate

Write on your company’s blog about UX. Have lunch-and-learns.

5. Target Selfishness

Find out what a person cares about and use that to relate to user experience.

For example, a colleague may want a bonus. Positive user experiences will generate more business, and that might make the bonus goal attainable.

6. Rely on Data

“Let’s test that.” should be part of every new idea and assumption.

Establish metrics so that one can measure the success or failure of a project. A project can come in on time and on budget, but if the customer isn’t happy, the employees are burnt out, and a riff between departments has formed, can one really call that project a success?

7.

Reinforce User Experience With the Company’s Goals

For example, the company may be doing e-commerce. Obviously, the company would love it if more users completed the checkout process.

By testing, identifying, and fixing any issues or friction with the checkout process, the user is better equipped to complete the process and the company reaps the benefits with a completed sale.

8. Change How You Work

Pop quiz: What’s a better requirement?

  • Make the background blue
  • Increase readability for the user

Making the background blue is easy! Increasing readability requires a lot more research, but will serve the user better than an arbitrarily defined requirement.

9. Focus on Collaboration

Collaboration is very important for a healthy organization and will serve the end-user well if everyone has the same end goal.

Tools like Slack help immensely. Something as simple as taking a colleague out to lunch can also pay dividends.

10. Make Use of Outside Experts

Sometimes you need someone who isn’t involved in the office politics and removed from internal payroll to provide good and concrete direction towards the future.

Join the Revolution!

User experience is hard! It requires commitment from everyone in the organization, from the bottom all the way to the top.

We strongly recommend you checking out Paul Boag and his talk on starting a user experience revolution.