Managing money is hard. Approving budgets is hard. Making sure every financial decision is the right one can be the difference between someone keeping their job or hiring someone new.
That’s why justifying the cost for certain initiatives can sometimes be a struggle since the inherent value doesn’t always equate to an easy-to-measure outcome. Yet, by focusing solely on what direct revenue a company stands to gain, these missed opportunities can spell out disaster down the road by ignoring their hidden values.
Failing fast has now become a fairly popular mentality, ensuring that we don’t invest too much time on the wrong features or concepts. Companies typically embrace A/B testing, rapid prototyping, and other methods to quickly assess preliminary value to users.
Being wrong fast is always better than being wrong slow. — James Helms
However, it’s not enough to focus on ensuring the right projects are being worked on. Following up and understanding how your users are actually using your product is just as important if not more so.
It’s a dangerous assumption to take the results of a few preliminary tests and project them as success metrics.
So how does a team justify the cost of investing in users if revenue is generated by clients or other stakeholders? Frame the problem (and solution) with failure.
- If a team is focusing on the wrong priorities and concepts, they’ll risk wasting time and money on a feature/product that users don’t want. Invest time and resources into getting feedback by using tools such as Invision and UserTesting.
- Learn from real users and identify how your product features could be failing their intended use — if users see improvement in a feature, that could translate to a higher NPS (net promoter score) as well as adoptability.
- Speaking of NPS, actions speak louder than words and survey numbers. Invest in making real connections with your users to get more meaningful and realistic feedback, whether that be through social media or some type of community platform. Having trouble monitoring social media? Try a free monitoring tool such as HootSuite.
- The longer a company fails to address user needs, the more it loses credibility, the less users will be willing to provide feedback and the more likely they will try a different product.
Use your users to your advantage to prioritize projects and align efforts based on their needs instead of purely direct revenue. Happy users tend to have better predicted behavior as well, which can help in calculating projections.
Happy employees make happy customers. When your team is constantly working tedious, insignificant tasks, they can become unmotivated to think outside the box. Designing in a bubble can also lead to an echo chamber of mediocrity and contribute to a lack of innovation.
That being said, of course every job has its share of repetitive tasks and work that frankly, just needs to get done.
But how do we minimize those mundane aspects to maximize actual productivity and ensure that your employees are inspired and producing the best work of their lives?
Invest in making sure your employees feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose in their work. Meaningful work can be the difference between “I like my job” and “I love what I do!” But what does meaningful work look like?
- It isn’t repetitive, and therefore can’t be automated
- It’s unique or specialized and has leadership support
- Has influence and acknowledgment outside of the direct working team
Stakeholders and investors can be anxious when approving budgets that are tied to intangible benefits such as innovation and morale. Sometimes the expenses can seem completely unrelated to the work the team is doing. In these situations, it’s more important to look at the big picture than the specifics of where each dollar is going.
How will spending money on making sure employees feel inspired benefit the business?
- Teams inspired by other industries and outside influences have a competitive advantage. Instead of just thinking about how users are experiencing your product, it’s important to see what other products they are using to paint a complete picture. Considering taking your team on a field trip to a local business to introduce them to the problems they’re trying to solve.
- Reduce redundant tasks. Is your team obsessed with pixel perfect comps before they’re headed for development? If your team is utilizing a design system, that extra effort could just be overkill. By naming layers the same as the components/classes that would be used in development, that could save significant time during the handoff phase. Avocode and Zeplin are huge time-savers that allow for developers to inspect specs for designs.
- Design thinking isn’t just for designers. A business that understands their customer’s journey lines leads to empowered teams that produce innovative solutions. Not familiar with design thinking? Provide training for with an online course such as one of these on IDEO.
- Inspired teams are passionate and proud about the work they do. Investing in their morale demonstrates acknowledgment of their effort and provides and opportunity to connect with your team. Engineering morale isn’t just about throwing sponsored happy hours or installing a pool table in the break room. True investment is listening in order to understand and support not only professional goals, but personal ones as well. As a leader, leave time on your calendar to connect with your team and make your own goals fully transparent.
How can I help you? This simple question creates opportunities, matures collaboration and acts as a catalyst of understanding. — J.B. Chaykowsky
With the rise of design systems and popularity of frameworks such as Bootstrap, it’s common to rely on a one-size-fits-all type of approach. From an investment standpoint, it makes perfect sense to use an established solution that scales well.
Of course we all want to customize these generic templates and when we hear “customization,” it’s easy to jump to common overrides such as fonts, colors and icons.
Some of these types of changes can also contribute to technical debt and problems later down the line when it comes to technical upgrades and scalability, so try not to be overzealous. Do you really need that custom icon set?
To provide a true personalized, tailored experience to users, it isn’t necessary to override every element that comes with a template or framework. In fact, doing so could compromise the integrity and scalability of your codebase.
Don’t forget that content is king for a reason. It’s also a great opportunity to add personalization to your product. Investing resources into personalized content is the easiest way to customize an experience without having to involve significant development effort.
- Provide more information and usability. Instead of “a new user has been added”, consider “You added Jane S. to your favorites. Send her a message!” You’re being specific who was added and a link to the profile as well as a quick call to action tied to this person.
- Make it relatable. Instead of using text to describe a feature, use creative storytelling and testimonials to establish trustworthiness. Tell your product’s story!
- Don’t make your users guess. Instead of a simply thanking someone for their business, provide as much information up front (order details, timeframe, etc). Don’t wait to tell them in an email! And above all else, make sure they feel confident about their actions/decisions.
- It’s tempting to default to another screen whenever you want to display new information. However, that can cause a disconnect to a user who isn’t as familiar with the information architecture. Instead, try other methods for content introduction such as drawers, modals and popups.
- Use what you know about your user to personalize their experience. Small things like prioritizing items that they regularly interact with on a dashboard makes a generic experience more catered to their own activity.
When considering the tone of your content, your product’s personality should shine through — it’s easy to fall into the trap of sounding too technical. Don’t miss out on the potential for delight that would make your product easier to use. By investing in crafting tailored content and experiences, your product has that extra layer of polish.
Value can sometimes be hard to define when it comes to choosing what to invest in as a company. When it comes to priorities and approaches to running a business, don’t ignore:
- The needs of your users
- The needs of your team
- The needs of your product