Product Design, Design Research, Design Strategy, Methods, UX

Uniting Business and Design Goals for Better Experiences

Designers want to prioritize aesthetics to visually represent a brand.
Product managers want to minimize the number of features and avoid complexity.
Businesses want to sell products and services.

While these descriptions are overly simplified, they uncover some inherent differences between the motivation for three important parts of product development and experience design. Too often creative decisions seem misaligned with business goals.

Users of enterprise products often want to compare options based on a feature by feature checklist. No one benefits from a beautifully designed interface if there aren’t concrete benefits to potential users or an established need in the market. Creative decisions that feel right to one team can run counter to strong business decisions.

The collision between design decisions and business isn’t just an aesthetic one. On the other hand, business-based decisions can have a materially negative impact on revenue if they don’t align with strong experience design strategy. In pursuit of well-intentioned business goals, it is common to overlook how those decisions directly impact customers—poor user experience leads to brand dilution and loss of users and revenue.

The fact is, business decisions and design decisions can’t be decoupled. They must work in tandem to build toward an outcome that makes all aspects of a business successful.

What do Users Want?

For many years, bankers, doctors, and real estate agents have successfully built relationships through face-to-face interactions with customers. As the world becomes increasingly digitized, users grow ever-more comfortable with autonomous digital services, from at-home health tests to online banking to virtual tours of homes. If people visit a website intending to evaluate options with readiness to make a purchase online, the traditional lead-gen model that requires an email or phone number so an agent can reach out could end up costing the company business —especially if a competitor has designed an easier method to conversion.

The direct-to-consumer model has steadily increased in popularity as more and more startups reimagine traditional user journeys. Moreover, the need for new innovations skyrocketed when many companies and services were forced to conduct business remotely as a result of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders beginning in March 2020. The results? Direct-to-consumer and at-home services like alcohol delivery service through Drizly, and Peloton’s hybrid digital exercise delivery service have experienced explosive growth.

Should all businesses switch to online sales and digital customer service? Not quite. Sometimes a human connection is exactly what people want. Talking to a human when reporting an accident or asking questions about symptoms in person or with a pet can be deeply reassuring—and often simpler than navigating six clicks deep in an app or trying to communicate with a chatbot that doesn’t understand nuance.

Ultimately, it takes understanding user behavior and the customer journey to determine which steps within an interaction with a product, service or experience are best designed with digital, AI, or physical solutions.

Do partnerships and promotions help the business or hurt the user?

Partnerships between companies can yield mutually beneficial financial output, particularly when their product capabilities enhance benefits to the customer or end user. They can also streamline users’ lives by resolving a multitude of needs in fewer total interactions. But savvy users are paying attention to relationships between companies more than ever—they aren’t swayed only by the presence of united logos—and are doing their own research to find the ideal product for their needs.

If you are working with a brand partner, give extra consideration to how the different brands align—and where they diverge. If it feels like users go from being on a familiar platform, yours, then on the next screen the brand colors and tone of voice are completely different, the contrast can be confusing or even shocking, negatively impacting trust and potentially reducing both usage and loyalty.

Cross-product positioning requires similar considerations. Interacting with a single brand for a variety of tasks can simplify workflow, but this relies on a certain amount of education about how and why the products or services work together. If there isn’t a clear correlation between what they want to do in one product and the hooks for another product by the same company, this placement runs the risk of just looking like marketing.

Are you advertising for another company or providing a product or service that genuinely helps users with a known need? Whether it’s a full-screen, no-nav ad for an iPad when logging into AT&T or credit card offers on sites that aren’t banking-related, if it looks like prominent placement of logos or unwanted ads trumps user experience, the result could be a rejection of both partners. To mitigate these potential issues, consider closely the core users for each product or brand and find the similarities—how can you speak to them in a way that resonates with the brand story and value proposition of both partners or products? How can you allure them to a strategically designed solution that evokes a feeling of divine providence rather than blatant exploitation.

Companies are increasingly noticing how implementing better user experience positively impacts revenue and are more and more willing to consider design strategy as a manner of marrying corporate business strategy with service and product design. For leaders striving to become more customer-centric, there are myriad opportunities to intentionally shift processes to drive robust customer experiences that also positively support the top and bottom line.