User experience has become a buzzword lately. Companies are coming around to it and realizing it might be pretty important. They say they care about user experience but do they really? Here are some good ways to tell if they are just paying lip service and trying to cross a line item to make them seem more competitive.

What is the ratio of designers to developers?
Are they actually putting their money where their mouth is? If design and UX are truly important, what does that headcount actually look like? At my previous company Roundarch, the ratio of engineers to UI designers, graphic designers, IAs and basically anyone to do with UX was about half and half. That was one of the main reasons I joined that company. They truly believed in well designed software. Typically at most organizations, it’s 100 engineers and a designer if that. Sometimes it’s outsourced completely. I think it’s OK to recognize that UX is not a core competancy and bring in help but too often it’s brought too late into the game.

Where is the design process?
Is design just veneer? Is “Design” considered something you paint on at the end? Does the organization engage a designer at the end of the software development process? Many times, design is something that slapped on sometimes by a contract designer. A good indicator of whether a company cares about UX is whether they put the design at the forefront of a software development project. Design is just more than veneer; it’s how something functions. Thus a well designed product is well thought out.

Software as a feature checklist.
I consulted for a company where the sole focus of software development was the feature checklist. If the software did that feature, the task was complete and you moved on to the next feature. That’s the fastest way to make software that’s gonna suck and that no one will want to use. UX really needs to be thought as screens and flow and how user interacts with it. You need to figure out the best ways to accomplish a task, and not just the fact that you CAN accomplish that task.

How important is the designer?
And by designer, I don’t mean the graphic designer, but the UX guy who really gets the product and the customer. If they’re opinion often gets shot down because the CEO thinks “it looks better” a certain way then it’s going to be an uphill battle trying to make the UX better.

As more and more organizations come around to the idea of user experience, it can only be a good thing. Products are going to get better and more software projects will succeed. It is not enough that software gets delivered but users have to use it and have it feel like it does solve their problem through a great experience.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Related posts:

  1. Outsourcing Success Episode 1
  2. Designing For Non-Technies and Neophytes
  3. Thoughts on iPad Killers
  4. Takeaways from “Speaking of Success” with Jason Fried of 37signals
  5. Exploring 3D Desktop Concepts and Natural User Interfaces