When designing an experience, for your people or your customers – many business leaders fail to prioritise the end user’s experience, leading to disengaged audiences and lost conversions. It’s often not intentional – leaders often bring a deep knowledge of what their customers need. But what they don’t realise, is that they are bringing bias into the equation and missing a true opportunity.
Designers, developers, strategists and managers alike could all do with challenging their assumptions every now and then. Addressing your biases can only make your product better through inclusivity and increased awareness of what people actually need. So let’s dig into this.
Welcome to our 2-part feature about debunking common misconceptions about user experience (UX). Part 2 covers how production specialists can do their bit to ensure a better outcome. For now, let’s dive into the strategy, stakeholder and process myths that can lead to negative user experiences further down the track.
Myth: It’s not worth paying someone to get to know you
Truth: Discovery (aka. “getting to know you”) is the process of identifying the needs of both your business and your audience. It aims to understand your customers’ objectives and the steps they will take to achieve them. Research done well should give you a clear vision of everyone’s goals, replacing opinions with data that streamlines the design process.
Imagine knowing that what you produce will drive positive social change because you based your work on insights from people with lived experience. Imagine avoiding costly fixes later on because you figured out the right approach before building. Imagine being able to track the ROI of your efforts because you identified your key performance indicators from the very start. That (and more) is the power of this critical early stage.
“Research done well should give you a clear vision of everyone’s goals, replacing opinions with data that super charges the design process.”
Discovery unlocked powerful insights from subject matter experts in the education space — teachers, parents and career education advocates to deliver a relevant and transformative campaign, Little Ripples.
Myth: Your experience is the same as your customers’
Truth: Everyone is susceptible to confirmation bias. It’s a natural side-effect of how our brains work and a byproduct of living in social, professional or informational “filter bubbles”. Most of us may have experienced confirmation bias (our own or someone else’s) in the form of using internal terminology with external parties or being on the outside of someone’s inside joke.
In the context of creating products and media, the assumption that your users’ experiences are the same as your own can lead to inaccessible websites (hello, lawsuit), confusing and non-inclusive outcomes (leading to real harm), and expensive products that eventually fail (we haven’t forgotten you, Google Buzz).
Guarding against confirmation bias can be as straightforward as taking a step back and consulting with real people (ie. your users) at the start and throughout your project. This allows you to validate your assumptions, make decisions based on relevant constraints, and increases the likelihood that users will engage with your product in the way you predict they will.
Myth: Focus on designing for the majority
Truth: Although designing for the majority of customers sounds like the most economical approach, ignoring your “edge cases” is not only exclusionary and marginalising but stands to fail your users when they’re most prepared to engage.
Consider that everyone is a candidate for being an edge case at some point, whether through permanent, temporary or situational circumstances. By solving some of the trickier digital experiences for some people, you’ll likely improve the experience for the majority of your audience across the user journey.
The Designer’s Code of Ethics reminds us that those we consider an edge case are still human beings with genuine needs. As part of an industry or discipline that strives for sustainability, ethics and social good, refusing to marginalise the minority is one meaningful way that we can help shape a better world.
Myth: Product owners should be in the room during user testing
Truth: User testing is only valuable when it returns honest feedback. Unfortunately, group influence and response bias can prevent participants from answering honestly when product owners and stakeholders are present in the room.
We’d caution against stakeholders even being involved in designing the tests, as their own confirmation biases may lead to wording questions in a way that discourages open discussion. For example, a product stakeholder immersed in the details of their work might ask, “Do you think [this feature] will help you find products more easily?” which will likely return different responses to, “Tell me about your experience finding products using this design.”
User testing is the best time to listen to feedback and get data to back up future decisions, not to defend what has been developed to date. Testing diverse participants in an open, neutral environment — away from internal biases and in-depth product knowledge — means researchers can gain a holistic view of the product experience, allowing them to identify the gap between what users say and what they do.
Myth: You’ve already invested so much, so you may as well keep going.
Truth: Pivoting based on real-world results isn’t a waste. It’s good strategy.
When circumstances change — like a turn in your market or negative feedback from testers — it’s often tempting to keep going the way you originally planned since you’ve invested so much time and energy already.
This is known as the “sunk cost fallacy”, a cognitive bias around costs that can’t be recovered, such as mental strain, overheads, and completed financial transactions. Manifestations of the sunk cost fallacy may be as trivial as sticking with software your team dislikes because you’ve already paid the bill, or as damaging as inserting an entire paycheque’s worth of coins into a casino slot machine.
When it comes to your digital product, it pays to keep an open mind when the need for change arises. Realise that change can mean a potential cost saving when the alternative is rolling out a product that doesn’t meet the needs of its users.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we debunk the digital design myths holding your product back.