Website User Experience Series: Part 4: Inject UX Design into your SDLC.

In our final post produced by Forrester Research you will learn about Best Practice #4 in Website User Experience.

Best Practice No. 4:

INJECT user experience Design INTO Your SDLC The trick is to actually get your application development professionals to elevate user experience design to become a first-class part of their job. To do this:

· Educate everyone on the team about what user experience is and why it is important. It is not that application development professionals don’t want to create great user experiences. It’s that, for the most part, no one ever taught them how. Get the word out that user experience design is important by communicating its business benefits. One way to do this is by circulating success stories that describe what various companies did to improve user experience and what results they saw. Free online newsletters from companies like User Interface Engineering and Human Factors International are great sources for these examples, as are Forrester reports. You’ll know that you’re making progress when you say “user experience” and the team says “useful, usable, and desirable.”

· Find a leader who will elevate and drive UX design. Firms that take user experience seriously have executive sponsors and often an internal evangelist. Find someone in your app dev organization that will become the internal evangelist for user experience — someone who will help elevate user experience design as a discipline and drive the best practices.

· Prioritize initial efforts on projects where you can make a big impact. Your ultimate goal should be to instill user experience throughout your app dev organization. But if your app dev shop’s awareness of UX is close to zero, then it is not practical to think that you can inject UX best practices across the board overnight. That means it’s important to start by prioritizing projects where user experience improvements will have the greatest impact, creating proof that this approach works. For example, a large insurer applies user experience design to those projects that are either customer-facing or that are used by employees but will have a direct impact on customers.

· Provide incentives to application development teams. Application development leaders often give teams incentives only to deliver functionality and not a great user experience. Refocus your application development team not just to create software that works but instead to create user experiences that are useful, usable, and desirable. One way to do this: Tie performance ratings or even bonus payouts to a rise in metrics like customer satisfaction with a site or application. Alternatively, you can tie compensation to a decline in the number of errors found through usability lab testing or standardized expert reviews.

· Transform your application development process to include UX design. A common gripe of user experience professionals is that app dev doesn’t understand the importance of user experience design. But often the real barrier is the cost of bringing in outside user experience professionals. Therefore your ultimate goal should be to turn application development into user experience development by making user experience part of your app dev DNA.

Pitfalls To Avoid In Injecting User Experience Design Into Your SDLC

To keep your UX design train rolling, avoid these pitfalls:

· Don’t make user experience design prohibitively expensive. If user experience design adds costs or time to application development projects, then it might be abandoned. Fortunately, integrating UX design does not have to be expensive. Many of the best practices are changes in attitude and activities on the part of the team, which can actually shorten the time needed for completing the project by reducing rework caused by users rejecting the site after it’s launched. If you do have to bring in outside designers or if the process does add cost, you can justify it by showing added value. To do this, identify the key metrics that will improve from your UX efforts and build a simple return on investment (ROI) model that shows these improvements justify the cost.

· Don’t just throw designs over the wall. Designers that are separate from developers often hand off designs to app dev and never see them again. Both designers and developers lose when that happens because designers don’t learn about what works for the developers and what doesn’t, and developers get cut off from a resource that could help them find solutions when they run into problems. Ideally, your app dev group and designers should be located together to encourage collaboration and skills transfer to each other.

· Don’t fall back to old ways. Most application development shops have been focused on improving processes for building, rather than for designing applications. Incorporating UX design best practices will be a change in mindset that needs to become permanent. To help reinforce the change, get in the habit of asking whether the design is useful, usable, and desirable for intended users at every review session.

Thank you for reading this series produced by Forrester Research.