The value of good design

We catch up with our UX researcher, Lily about the value of good design and everything her and the team learnt at the Tech Circus Business X Design Conference.

By Lily Parsons

With contributions from Emma Story, Carlota Coiduras & Rachael Hagan

We’ve all experienced a piece of technology that’s made us want to tear our hair out, scream, kick something, or possibly even all three. Perhaps the text is so small that you need the Hubble Space Telescope to read it, or maybe a badly placed ad disrupts your whole user flow. We all know the cost of bad design, but what about the value of good design? 

In September the VISFO Design and User Research team along with Rachael, our Product Manager, were lucky enough to attend the Business X Design Conference. One of my favourite things about the events put on by Tech Circus is the virtual conference that takes place beforehand. It’s a great way to get your head in the game before the in-person event, with a range of speakers, lectures, and roundtable discussions, this year all focused on one common theme: the value of design.  

From conversations at the summit, I realised that it’s a lot easier to define and measure what bad design is over good design, because the outcomes are so prevalent: frustrated users, high drop off, and error rates. Carlota, our Product Designer, shared a similar stance: “Good design is different for everything. It depends on the aim of the product, but for me it’s about having the same goals as the user. Design is a humble process where you take yourself out of the equation to focus on solving someone else’s problem”. At VISFO, we believe in making the right decisions early on, with user research a crucial part of this, providing the evidence that drives our product design strategy forward in a user-centric way."

But despite all the work that goes into making good design possible, it’s still an underappreciated discipline.

The question on our minds was, well, why? The answer is simple: good design makes the user experience so effortless, so frictionless that we don’t ever stop to think about it – we just coast past like we’re floating on a lazy river. When was the last time you paused and thought “WOW! This user experience is amazing!”. Sure, those who work in user experience (UX) are more inclined to notice it, but I for one don’t often find myself thanking Apple for all the hours they put into user interviews every time I open my iPhone with Face ID. This goes to show how high our expectations are as consumers, and in order to get it right, design and research capabilities are more needed than ever before. But if we don’t always know its value, how can we get the wider business to invest in it? 

Thankfully the BxD Conference had the answers, and it’s easier than you might think. We all know that by gaining a better understanding of our users through research, we can create designs that truly offer solutions to their problem and benefit the business financially. Many of the speakers touched on this by talking about design maturity models, which explore the relationship between design practices and business performance – one such type being the McKinsey Design Index. In a review published in 2018, McKinsey found that companies with strong design capabilities grow their revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their industry competitors. The evidence is there, so if we want to make this happen, we need to give design and research an active role in product vision and strategy.

At VISFO, data-driven decisions are an integral part of what we do and we prioritise involving our users early in product development to establish their pain points sooner. Through empathising with the user, we can write actionable user need statements and assign methods of measurements. These statements act as instructions for creating designs that solve the problems faced by the user. Once testing is completed and the product is live, we can measure the metrics from the user need statements, as well as the usage data. This shows explicitly the value of user research and design and allows us to continuously improve the product, providing real solutions which catalyse a high return on investment. 

At VISFO, our work is built around the needs of our clients. One of the first things we did when we began our work on nudge was to engage with our target audience. From those conversations we learnt that Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs) can spend up to 16 hours researching just one opinion leader they plan to meet, leaving them time-short, frustrated, and in desperate need of a solution. That right there was our gold dust: our user problem, that we translated into an actionable user need statement with a user-centric metric to match, which could then be used to measure the success of our product. 

Once again, a big thank you to Tech Circus for running the Business x Design Conference, we had a fantastic time!

Blog author(s)

Lily Parsons

UX Researcher