Be your best. Calling out all Product, UI/UX Designers!
I’ll use the term ‘UX’ to encapsulate ‘UI/UX, Digital Designer, Product Designer’ as they’re essentially the same thing, well depending on who you ask…
Let’s face it, UX Design is not what it used to be, although it’s been around since, well, the internet. But the job title itself has only really gone mainstream in the last couple years. When I started out it was still at its infancy, the iPhone was only a few years old. There certainly wasn’t a huge amount of jobs, and I felt like not many people knew about it, it was a niche and cool job title. Well granted my parents still don’t know what I do, but you get the point.
In a world where design and tech are evolving so rapidly it makes sense that more and more people are moving to this great sector, from Graphic Designers to Economic Grads (I’ve surprisingly met several), and why wouldn’t they, it’s such an awesome space! You no longer have to be a genius (we like to pretend), with amazing platforms like Sketch App Sources, and templates, UI kits and readily available design systems it’s becoming easier for people to join this space. As well as sites such as Upwork and Fiverr, UX is becoming more and more of a commodity. It also helps that there are so many great apps out there now, and most of them do look the same making it easier to take learnings. But worry not, I have a solution!
Having a more competitive landscape is not a bad thing, it means better design and emphasises how great this sector is! But to stand out from the crowd, you’ve got to diversify and push yourself to broaden your skillset. I’m envious of those people with amazing coding skills, coupled with wicked design, now that’s a killer combo! But if coding isn’t your thing, you’re in luck, there are other ways to improve your skillset, and help you advance to that next level. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with just focusing on UX Design and killing it, but I do believe that there’s a great value in also understanding other parts, I believe the most important, is business and the product strategy. I believe we Designers have to look at the bigger picture, and this is what I’ll be covering in this blog. I was guilty of this myself, making the UI as sexy as possible, spending hours on rounded corners, and focusing solely on the user. I was ignorant before as I thought a user-centric design was all that mattered, I didn’t care for anything else. The customer is always right, right?
Designing for the Bigger Picture. Business and Product Strategy
Product Strategy, in a nutshell, is a collection of decisions based on what we know of the customers which help us to meet business goals and objectives, it’s having a focused and purposeful plan on doing things that positively impact the business. From a UX standpoint, it’s having the awareness and understanding of the decisions being made, it’s having the ability to tell a business owner ways in which they can use design to improve the business. For example, if they ask for a total redesign out of the blue, you’re able to put your product strategy hat on and ask if this is really solving a problem, will it add value to the product, it’s all about having a strategic mindset. At the end of the day your UX is being constructed for a business, a Designer’s focus should be to design for empathy, create an intuitive and easy to use solution, but also have a strategic approach. Having an overall awareness of marketing, growth and strategy will set you apart from someone who doesn’t, it will undoubtedly give you a competitive advantage. You should understand the bigger picture of why you’re designing what you are. It’s a fact that customers are not always right, and they don’t always know what they want. By understanding the bigger picture, and don’t worry I don’t mean understanding all the nitty-gritty bits of the business, you’re a Designer after all. But what I’m getting at here is to have an overall grasp of product strategy, understanding that the product must grow and be relevant and current. Resulting in not just a delightful solution for your users, but also help push the business in the right direction. Now that’s a real creative problem solver!
Growth is imperative for any business, you have to grow to improve and become a success (whatever that means). Growth can be anything from increasing your engagement (number of people actively using your product), your user-base, to sales. Having the awareness of the growth metrics of your product is key, metrics such as acquisition, activation, retention, monetisation and revenue. Understanding that once you gain a customer (acquisition) you must get them actively using it, and then be constantly optimising to keep them onboard. Retention is arguably the most important for growth, it’s creating a product that people love and habitually use. To do so a business must stay current and have the attention to pivot if needs be. This is why the likes of Facebook put such great focus on growth, and specifically on retention and engagement as it’s one of the major players of measuring success and market fit. Unlike platforms like Myspace, whose focus was more on registered users, overactive users.
Growth is not constantly adding new and shiny features for the sake of it, it is optimising and having a strategic outlook to create a new or improved aspect to the product, which will positively impact on the business. As a Designer having the awareness of small intricacies that can really make an impact, very simple things like understanding the importance of a prominent email capture on a landing page. Or having the awareness to question having an illustration on a site, over a photo of people. It’s not just about what the user says they like, but it’s also what would convert more (usually there’s a higher conversion rate with photos of people, us humans like seeing other humans). Growth is creating a habit-forming product that people love, by creating an engaging experience. There are many ways in which this can be done, from using more visual content, such as maps and photography, to a creative and novel experience. Making a user invest their time is another great tactic for retention, however, it’s difficult to achieve as your product must be good enough in the first place. You can’t learn this simply from asking a user, you have to do this through data and experiments. There are many nuances to optimise and improve retention and overall growth, books on growth and also human psychology are great starting points, but I’d always recommend a first-hand experience. There isn’t a one size fit’s all approach for every business, that’s why a first-hand experience is important, growth hacking is a great mindset to have to speed up growth.
Growth hacking, WHAT is that?
There’s a good reason why there’s recently been an abundance of jobs posts being advertised for it, growth adds measurable value to a business. Growth hacking is essentially improving on the product by moving fast, iterating and testing, it’s not a linear process as such, it’s working through until you have the perfect solution. Even if that means to completely pivot and change your strategy, egos get left at the door with growth hacking. There’s no one size fits all with products, being agile and constantly optimising is the best way to build a killer startup.
Airbnb is a great example of pivoting and using the growth hacking methodology. They first started as a way of renting their apartment as a bed-and-breakfast offering free breakfast. They then pivoted to focus on an improved solution of a networking alternative for when hotels were booked up, they lastly pivoted again to what it is today! Instagram is another great example, they started off as a social location-based app, but soon learnt that majority of their users were only using the photos and filters feature, they decided on focusing solely on that.
If the product is new, then it must have market fit, otherwise growth hacking and marketing is only going to take you so far. You can throw all your money at marketing, create a super viral campaign, but if it’s not good enough then it will slowly fade into the abyss. The product and idea has to be worthy, people have to want it, it should be solving a problem. As a new product, it’s always important to create an MVP to start with, a super lean product which can be tested on your customers to validate the idea. Perfection can be destructive and a lot of the time the best thing to do is just ship, and then take learnings from it. You can then pivot to create something that your users truly want and need.
Lastly having an awareness of marketing is super valuable. There are some crossovers with growth, but marketing is usually focused on customer acquisition. Getting the user to your product in the first place, or reminding a user about the product. Where growth is focused on all the other goodness, retaining your customers and making them love you even more, and more and more, and more. OK, that’s enough love for one day.
Marketing can be seen in the form of traditional methods, such as TV, radio and print (posters, billboards and flyers etc.), or newer advances such as SEO optimisation, Google Ads, social media ads, App Store optimisation and email marketing etc. These newer methods are great, they’re not just current and super popular, but usually cheaper. Another great advantage is that with a great deal of these newer marketing tools, you’re able to measure and track success, one can see how engaging an ad is, how many impressions its had, and the click-through rate. You can then test and optimise your solution until you’ve nailed it. Email marketing is incredibly important as it’s usually what many startups tackle first, getting a users email is super beneficial for engaging with the user. Hence why email capture on landing pages is vital. You now know why the marketing manager keeps badgering you for that email field…
And it’s a wrap! 🌯
To conclude. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on being the best Product, UI/UX Designer possible, and focusing on that. But I believe having other skills in your armoury which encapsulates the bigger picture of the business you’re designing for is incredibly valuable. Especially when the job title is becoming more of a commodity and easier to do, there’s no harm in expanding your horizons, you never know what you might find.
Want to know more? Get in touch.