On February 1st I spoke at the inaugural LightningUX event on the topic of how we, in the user experience community, speak to business. This is my attempt to try and convert my outline notes to a blog post.

User experience is a rapidly maturing industry, and now, more that ever, we user experience professionals are in high demand. Companies want a UX function, and say that they want to be more user focussed. However, much of the time companies have difficulty in fully realising the potential that our discipline can bring to the table. I think that we UXers also often struggle to get the level of authority that we feel we need, in order to successfully our user experience vision.

The question is: how do we change this? How do we ingrain ourselves more into ‘the business’ and get that magic seat at the table?

Use language that the business understands

99% of the time the people that sign off on budgets, be it project or departmental, are business focussed. They are finance people who have little to no knowledge of what we do, how we do, or why we do it. Indeed, it’s been my experience, that in corporate environments it’s not unusual for UX to be met with a degree of cynicism. That we magic up wireframes! That we conjure up designs!

Case and point is the resistance that we often meet when trying to get budget for research. A request often meet with replies like “Ask us, we know everything about  our customers.”, or even worse, “You’re the UX person – you should know all the answers, why do you need to do research?”.

To overcome this we need to show that we are on the same level as the business. That we understand their needs and goals. This is, I believe, how we will begin to overcome the impression that we sit in an ivory tower, expounding our user centric mantra!

This starts with the words we use.

The words we use are important

By framing what we do in business centric rhetoric we can start the process of convincing the business that we understand them. Now, I’m not saying that we don’t understand them, I’m just saying that we need to do more to convince the business of this. So that we move away from being seen as purists, talking in ‘fluffy’ terms about users’ needs and goals, and that we come across as the shrewd, business-focussed UX professionals that we are.

So, let’s start by talking more about customers (instead of users). And when we want to talk about improving the user journey , let’s talk about conversion optimisation. Let’s talk about persuasive selling, effective merchandising and presenting cross-sell messages as something useful to users (rather than the brute force approach many eCommerce sites take).

The words we use will reassure people that what we want to do has their best interests at heart. When we explain that we want to marry the needs of the user with the needs of the business, using business rhetoric, we subconsciously put the emphasis on the business side. It’s persuasion design and reassurance in practice! I’m not for one second saying that we shouldn’t use our own UX language, just that we need to frame it in a more business focussed vernacular.

The perfect mix for success

We, in UX, sometimes feel dirty when we start becoming more business focussed and use business-babble! That somehow we’re prostituting ourselves, a sullying the purity of our discipline. We’re not! When we talk about  a fantastic user experience, and putting the customer at the heart of what we do, framed in the language that the business speaks, we gain a new credibility. People stop and listen and begin to realise the opportunities that we can unlock for their business.

We’re also an incredibly passionate bunch of people, so committed to what we do. This passion, with our credibility, combined with our business focussed approach will take us to the next step of maturity as a discipline.

And as we develop our UX vernacular, framing it in a business speak, UX and Customer Experience will become a more integral part of every serious business.

So, along with credibility, there is another huge advantage to be got from crossing these two streams. We all look at the budgets that marketing departments have with envy, and lust for even a small part of that.As we become a little more business focussed, I believe that we will become as influential, if not more, as marketing is today, and will be given the budgets that we deserve. I could be provocative and say that as another plus,  we can  actually deliver tangible and measurable outputs! But I won’t!

On the back of this, one of the team here has started compiling a list of UX words and how we could business-ify them. Once we’ve got a critical mass I’ll post them here. Can you think any of the top of your head?

Thanks to Andy Birchwood for the use of the image of me speaking.

I bookmark a lot of pages and sites which I find interesting, inspirational and informative every day! I’d like to share some of them with you here. In general they are about user experience, usability, UCD, accessbility and design. In general, but not always!!

  • Designing Objectively | UX Magazine
    It’s a common misconception that art and design are one and the same. But although design can be artful, the process behind it is quite different.<br />
    Artists engage in the manipulation of a particular medium to produce an aesthetic and personal response. Art is valued for its originality and ability to express an idea. Some people get it, some don’t, and that’s okay. Design, on the other hand, must solve a specific problem relative to a particular user or task, and is evaluated simply by how effective it is at solving that problem. If it doesn’t work, then it failed—period.
  • The Creativity Trigger / FINCH
    Our creative thinking is quite dependent on technology and our connection to others. Take a moment to consider to what extent we are connected: Twitter, Facebook, Dribbble, Forrst, blah blah blah… I don’t have to go on. That connection to the community is something we tap into everyday. We rely on it for knowledge and inspiration.
  • Best Practice on Basket Abandonment Emails « RedEye International
    At RedEye we are soon to launch a Benchmarking Report on Behavioural Email Marketing, but one of the standout statistics strikes me as important. According to RedEye’s own research, less than 10% of the top 100 UK e-commerce sites (as defined by Hitwise) currently do basket abandonment email (the research is reassuring, however, because half of those that do are RedEye clients!).
  • Download the cards – Design with Intent Toolkit
    101 Patterns for Influencing Behaviour Through Design
  • The Influence of Fleeting Attraction — PsyBlog
    Compliance to a simple request can be doubled by the most innocent manipulation.
  • Afghanistan, October, 2010 – The Big Picture – Boston.com

Please do feel free to suggest other related (and unrelated ones)!

I bookmark a lot of pages and sites which I find interesting, inspirational and informative every day! I’d like to share some of them with you here. In general they are about user experience, usability, UCD, accessbility and design. In general, but not always!!

  • Test Usability By Embracing Other Viewpoints – Smashing Magazine
    As Web technology improves, users expect Web-based widgets to be useful, content to be relevant and interfaces to be snappy. They want to feel confident navigating a website and using its functionality. They crave being able to get things done with little friction and on demand. And demand they do.
  • Presentation Zen: Start your presentation with PUNCH
    The primacy effect, when applied to presentations, suggests that we remember more strongly what happens at the beginning of a presentation. In order to establish a connection with an audience, we must grab their attention right from the beginning. A punchy opening that gets the audience's attention is paramount.
  • Demystifying Usability : Design and Emotion: Designing for Mood
    'Getting in the mood' is the name of a paper I'll be presenting at Design and Emotion in Chicago 5-7th October 2010. Since I'm getting in the mood for the conference ;-), here are some highlights of my latest thinking on mood, product design and interaction.
  • How to recruit a UX leader with the X factor
    We're increasingly asked by organisations for advice on building a user experience competency. Our advice is to start at the top and get the right person for that first critical leadership role. User experience leaders demonstrate 3 core competencies: they understand research; they follow user experience methods and standards; and they are great communicators.
  • How to Make Your Web Statistics Actionable: Search « kylejlarson.com
    If you were ill and your doctor handed you a chart including your weight, heart rate, and blood pressure and promptly sent you on your way with no analysis or feedback, he wouldn’t be your doctor for long. Without actionable analysis of the data it has very little usefulness. Website statistics are often discussed in a similarly meaningless way. I’ve suffered through many meetings where people throw around numbers with nothing more to say about them than this number has increased and that one has decreased. Most sites have some statistics available and maybe they are even reviewed occasionally, but to get real value from your statistics they must be a catalyst for action. Analyzing your on-site search and search engine keywords is a great place to get started.
  • Alphabetical Sorting Must (Mostly) Die (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)
    Ordinal sequences, logical structuring, time lines, or prioritization by importance or frequency are usually better than A–Z listings for presenting options to users.

Please do feel free to suggest other related (and unrelated ones)!

I bookmark a lot of pages and sites which I find interesting, inspirational and informative every day! I’d like to share some of them with you here. In general they are about user experience, usability, UCD, accessbility and design. In general, but not always!!

  • YouTube – Broadcast Yourself.
    CS 547: Human-Computer Interaction Seminar (Seminar on People, Computers, and Design) is a Stanford University course that features weekly speakers on topics related to human-computer interaction design. The seminar is organized by the Stanford HCI Group, which works across disciplines to understand the intersection between humans and computers. This playlist consists of seminar speakers recorded during the 2008-2009 academic year.
  • Why We Sketch
    It seemed the conference room got brighter, as if, for the team staring at the whiteboard, light bulbs just went on. There was a collective sense of "Ohhh, I get it now."<br />
    <br />
    It was the culmination of a very confusing discussion, where everyone thought they knew what they were talking about, but, as it turns out, nobody was on the same page. In a moment of frustration, one junior team member—a designer—stepped up to the whiteboard and declared, "This is what I think we're talking about."<br />
    <br />
    Turns out the junior designer got it wrong. Yet his design spurred the idea's progenitor to rush to the board, grab the pen, and quickly correct the mistakes.<br />
    <br />
    That's when the group sighed their collective "ohhh" and the room lit up. The shift had happened. Up until now, they were talking about WHAT they were trying to do. Now, they could talk about HOW they would do it.
  • Playing Hard to Get: Using scarcity to influence behavior | UX Magazine
    Microsoft recently announced an upcoming price increase for the XBox Live Gold membership fee. When this news broke, a few retailers such as NewEgg responded by pushing their existing stock of gift cards (selling the membership at the older, lower price). It was fascinating to watch people scramble to get their hands on the remaining gift cards. Even people who hadn’t yet tried XBox Live purchased some of the gift cards, explaining, “they won’t be around for long—now’s the last chance to buy a year membership at the current price.”
  • Mobile Usability (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)
    In user testing, website use on mobile devices got very low scores, especially when users accessed "full" sites that weren't designed for mobile.
  • Animals in the news – The Big Picture – Boston.com

Please do feel free to suggest other related (and unrelated ones)!

I bookmark a lot of pages and sites which I find interesting, inspirational and informative every day! I’d like to share some of them with you here. In general they are about user experience, usability, UCD, accessbility and design. In general, but not always!!

  • Facebook: 7 Highly Effective Habits — PsyBlog
    Love it or loathe it, Facebook is everywhere, and will continue to be everywhere as the film describing its genesis—The Social Network—is released worldwide over coming months.<br />
    <br />
    To help you cope, here are 7 research-based tips for total Facebook domination. If you don't use it, these should at least help you pepper Facebook-related conversations with compelling observations from the psychological research.
  • Don’t stand still while your users evolve–Making Websites Easy To Use
    As new technology arrives in users hands, their expectations are raised. When technology evolves, they get used to new functionality and use their new found learning to form expectations. When using a new website, or one they haven’t used for a while, they bring with them their learning and expectations from other sites and expect the new site to behave in the same way. In usability testing, we regularly hear users saying that they expected the search function to make suggestions while typing, just like Google does. Or, that they expect to be able to quickly filter the products shown on a page just like they can on Asos.com.
  • Don’t stand still while your users evolve–Making Websites Easy To Use
    Using our sat nav on the way to see a client the other day, we wondered why the touchscreen seemed less responsive than normal. After some thought, we realised that it wasn’t the sat nav that had changed, instead we had become accustomed to the fast and highly responsive iPhone touch screen interface and have now come to expect everything to work like that.
  • UsabilityPost – A Motive For Bad Design
    Browse around some content sites on the web—magazines, blogs, news sites—and you’ll quickly notice a lot of bad design. Bad design in the sense that the page isn’t working on making things easy to read for you as the visitor, but instead seems to be pushing ads and links in your face, making for a cluttered and confusing experience.
  • What Websites Can Learn From Mobile | UX Booth
    Mobile applications and websites are hugely popular right now. Limitations of the mobile hardware has meant that certain design conventions need to be used to make them a success. Could some of these mobile conventions be used to improve your website design?
  • A List Apart: Articles: Testing Accordion Forms
    “Three point five pages.” It’s my usual answer when someone asks me “how long should my web form be?” And believe it or not, many people ask. It may be the most common web form design question I get asked. So I’m not exactly ecstatic that my tongue–in–cheek answer mostly draws blank stares and very few laughs. You see, it turns out this is a topic that many people take quite seriously.
  • Oktoberfest 2010 – The Big Picture – Boston.com

Please do feel free to suggest other related (and unrelated ones)!