January 28, 2021
The Importance of Integrating the User Experience into Software Development
Bringing user experience into the software development process yields better outcomes on multiple levels, from happier customers and less waste to a big boost to the bottom line.
Why? Because it makes it easier to deliver products to market that people truly love.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the specific benefits of embracing a customer-first approach to software development. You’ll also hear from our experts who share some best practices and insights based on their experience working with a wide range of clients.
What is UX in Software Development?
What is UX in software development? Well, in general, UX—short for “user experience design”—aims to create an immersive experience for end-users while also keeping development costs under control.
In a software development context, UX is about identifying user needs and allowing the voice of the customer to guide the process.
3Pillar Software Engineer Paul Estrada puts it this way: “UX research is a formal way of finding out what the users need or want. By using techniques like prototyping, A/B testing, focus groups, and usability experiments, we can measure and find out exactly which features our project needs and how we can shape the software functionality to serve our users better.”
Traditionally, UX testing was performed at the end of the development cycle. However, organizations are getting better results by incorporating UX into the earliest stages of development, allowing customer feedback to inform all features and requirements.
Why is UX-Driven Development Important?
Look, developers can either build what they think their audience wants or build a product they know the end-consumer wants.
There’s no real need to explain why the latter approach is probably your best bet. After all, making business decisions on assumptions means leaving things up to chance—in other words, you’re more likely to get things wrong than end up with a hit product on your hands.
And, if the odds do work out in your favor, you’ll have a hard time pinpointing what it was that customers liked about your product/service—thus making it incredibly difficult to replicate big wins.
UX is important in software development because it ensures that you’ll deliver a solution that is relevant to the user—it solves a problem or meets a specific need—which in turn means that you’ll generate more sales, loyal customers and maximize the ROI on your software investments.
While building products that align with the needs and preferences of the end-user has always been important, the user experience has become even more critical due to the current state of affairs.
Today’s customers expect personalization to come standard, seek out brands with values that align with their own, and don’t want to have to work hard to get started with a new solution. By bringing user experience design into the SDLC, development teams can use those expectations to inform every aspect of the project.
Ensures the Project Stays Focused on the Customer
When UX is embedded into the software development process from the get-go, user needs and expectations guide the entire process—rather than the opposite, where you come up with an idea, then try to build an audience around that untested hypothesis.
STE Octavio Islas says, “UX-driven development ensures that the product you’re developing stays aligned with end-user needs and expectations at every level and stage in the development lifecycle.”
Essentially, when UX is baked into the entire process, it’s much easier to keep the end-user top of mind. You’re incorporating data, as well as individual input from the people who stand to benefit from your idea in real life—whether that’s helping them improve their performance on the job, save time, or even just enjoy the online streaming or shopping experience in peace without any unnecessary friction.
These days, organizations can’t afford to ignore customer feedback at any stage in the development process. One slip up, and there’s a good chance at least some users will defect to a competitor better able to address their needs—and adapt in real-time when those needs end up changing.
When the voice of the customer guides the end-to-end process, development teams can create a cohesive experience that checks all the right boxes, avoiding extra rework and the costs that come with it.
Solves Real-World Problems
Generally, when we’re developing a new product or feature, there should be a reason for creating it in the first place. Often, that means addressing a problem that real people are trying to solve though it’s not always that serious. “Problem-solving,” at least in this context, means meeting a need. It doesn’t matter if that’s a real big pain point or you’ve created a fun experience that no one else can provide.
According to 3Pillar’s Cesar Gutierrez, “software should help people. We need to think about the target audience for our solutions and how the final product will impact their activities. For example, what can we do to reduce the amount of time and effort it takes to achieve a specific goal?”
Prevents Product-Market Mismatch
Bad UX can completely undermine a great idea—when you fail to consider real customer needs, products may be used incorrectly, misunderstood, or completely ignored.
3Pillar Scrum Master Rodolfo Carmona says, “a project that fails to identify user needs, much less the best way to satisfy them, is unlikely to generate any value for your company.”
UX-driven development helps companies avoid all of the waste (time, money, etc.) that comes from building and releasing a product with no feedback guiding the overarching vision. Today’s companies can’t afford to jump into a project without first validating the idea to find out if it has any traction in the marketplace and learning exactly what it is consumers are looking for in a solution. Without these insights, you’ll likely be footing the bill for labor, tech investments, and rework you could have avoided by listening to what your customers have to say.
”I’d say UX/UI come into play when it comes to both ensuring usability and brand aesthetics. A product can be incredibly powerful, but that doesn’t matter unless customers can easily adopt that new solution and leverage it to its full potential. A product isn’t worth much if people don’t understand it or don’t enjoy using it.” states 3Pillar’s Eddy Vidal Nunez Garcia.
Juan Carlos Mena Osorio shares a similar sentiment. He says, “most new apps are entirely focused on customer appeal, good design, and good UX. The more complex the app, the easier the user experience needs to be on the consumer side.”
In other words, the bigger “problems” your end-product purports to solve, the more effort you’ll need to invest into making it easy for users to get the lay of the land.
For example, you may need to make sure your app includes a built-in onboarding tour, tailored to each user’s specific set of needs—but also provide a hands-on, human-guided onboarding session(s) to ensure that users are ready to maximize the benefits of your offering. Then, of course, you’ll need to make sure that you make it easy for customers to ask for help—offering multiple channels for getting in touch.
Long term, make sure you’re monitoring feedback, scanning for new friction points so you can address them ASAP. Improving usability is an ongoing strategy as A: you’ll never get everything right on the first attempt and B: even if you do, needs, expectations, and pain points evolve as fast as the news cycle or the “pace of innovation.”
Builds a Strong Reputation
High-quality products yield better product reviews, word-of-mouth recommendations, and more positive mentions on social channels, blogs, and news sources. Over time, people will associate your brand with quality solutions—and eventually, the go-to authority in your market.
That means you won’t need to spend as much time and money on marketing, as loyal customers will help spread the word to their networks. Additionally, your existing customers will become more willing to take a chance on new products or feature upgrades with minimal consideration as you’ve already proven that you make great products.
And finally, it should go without saying, focusing on user experience in software development means you’ll increase sales.
A product that delights customers, solves problems and pain points, and is easy to use inevitably creates a loyal customer base—thus ensuring more predictable recurring revenue streams, easier upsells and cross-sells, and in an indirect way, helps bring in new customers via positive reviews and recommendations.
Embedding User Experience Design in SDLC
While this dramatically simplifies the process of incorporating UX into the development lifecycle, the process generally goes something like this:
- Discovery. The first step? Identifying your user’s problem and potential goals.
- Ideation. Next, you’ll start brainstorming potential solutions.
- Design. Then, you’ll select the option that makes the most sense and start brainstorming ways to bring it to life.
- Validation. Validate your solution to ensure that it aligns with what customers actually want from a solution. Is there a demonstrated need in the market? You’ll want to look at high-level data—market trends, competitor intelligence, social conversations, current events, etc. And—dig into what’s happening within your own data sets. For example, feedback from 1:1 interactions (ask sales and support for specific insights), key themes surfaced from reviews, support tickets, FAQs, purchasing and behavioral trends, etc.
- Analysis. Here, you’ll evaluate the work you’ve just completed, looking for errors and opportunities to improve.
The idea that the user experience should guide the software development process is nothing new. It’s just that today, the stakes of getting it wrong are higher than ever.
3Pillar’s experts follow mature Agile and DevOps practices and use continuous testing and customer feedback to deliver products that solve real-world problems. We’ll help you identify and understand the needs of your audience, tackle their biggest challenges, and deliver an all-around positive experience.