"Launch now, design later" is a mantra that has steered many businesses into the stormy seas of UX debt. As a UX design agency, we often encounter the aftermath of this approach—products rushed to market without adequate consideration for user experience, leading to a costly backlog of design fixes.
UX debt is the invisible cost of overlooked design, and it accrues interest in the form of dissatisfied users and hindered growth. This article explores the perils of UX debt and the importance of integrating UX design from the outset.
The High Price of Postponed UX
The decision to launch a product with the intention of circling back to design at a later stage is fraught with risks. Yet, this couldn't be more common. This is the most typical story we hear when we're approached by new clients.
That said, here's what disrupting the design process gets you:
User Frustration and Churn: A product that's hard to navigate or confusing will push users away, increasing churn rates.
Conversion Bottlenecks: Poor UX design can become a significant bottleneck for conversions, impacting revenue directly.
Support Overload: A surge in customer support queries can often be traced back to inadequate UX, leading to increased operational costs.
Brand Erosion: The brand's value diminishes when user experience is compromised, making it difficult to retain and attract customers.
Confronting UX Debt Head-On
As specialists in the field, we confront UX debt with a strategic and methodical approach. It starts with an audit.
Comprehensive UX Audits
We start by dissecting the current user experience and identifying areas where the design falls short of user expectations and business goals.
Contrary to popular belief, an audit is not a heuristic evaluation. In other words, having a designer look through a product and make notes is not an audit. An audit is comprehensive, as illustrated on the infographic below.
In practical terms, a UX audit, as a deliverable, might look like this
Strategic Issue Prioritization
We help clients tackle UX debt by prioritizing issues based on their impact on the user journey and the business's bottom line.
The approach that we tend to use most is impact/effort prioritization. We developed the template below, as a part of our UX Research Figma plugin.
If the situation calls for a more precise prioritization method, we typically go with RICE.
Iterative Design Solutions
Our philosophy is rooted in iterative design and testing. This approach allows for manageable, incremental improvements that are continuously refined through user feedback.
Long-Term UX Planning
We assist in crafting a UX roadmap that aligns with product development cycles, ensuring that UX remains a central focus and not an afterthought.
Cultivating a User-Centric Philosophy
We encourage a shift towards a user-centric culture within organizations, emphasizing the importance of UX in all aspects of product development. All actions aimed at this goal are typically referred to as UX maturity.
While there are different approaches to UX maturity, they all boil down to 5 steps: from beginning to exceptional. These steps are essentially a suspension bridge from "build now design later" to having design at the very front of thinking.
The question "Launch now, design later?" implies a risky deferment that can lead to significant UX debt. As a UX design agency, we've seen the cost of this approach and advocate for a more balanced strategy that considers user experience from the very beginning.
Investing in UX early on can prevent the accrual of UX debt, fostering a product ecosystem that delights users and supports business growth. In the digital product arena, paying attention to UX from the start isn't just good design—it's good business.