How to Make A Business Case for Design

Design has the power to transform the company and the product vision. But how?

From booking an Airbnb to Apple’s seamless integrations, design is at the forefront of how your customers experience a product. That’s why the most successful organizations have a designated chair for design at the leadership table.

Our CEO Prayag Narula recently talked about the business case for design with fellow product design leader Dave Rolnitzky. We’ve cherry picked highlights of the conversation below — relevant for designers, researchers and leaders.

Making the case for design in business

Everyone focuses on metrics to determine success in an organization. Revenue, customer retention, ROI — these tangible numbers give us a top-down look at the health of an organization.

But we also need to assess how well we’re solving our users’ problems, even if it’s not so easy to quantify.

“As designers and design-focused organizations, it’s really about the behavior that you want to influence and the outcomes you want to achieve with that behavior,” Dave said.

B2B companies are now realizing industry-wide transformation is coming from designers. Functional software and beautiful design are a priority to solving a user’s pain points. But the weight shouldn’t fall to just the design team.

Design and research might be the face of UX, but it goes much deeper. 

“We all need to be sure we’re having a great user experience,” Dave said. “Whether you’re in support or sales or marketing, all of those things need to work together to make sure you’re focused on the customer everyday.”

User experience applies to every touch point.

Good design is a product of good research. A good user experience seals the package, and all teams should be involved here.

A room full of experts with user empathy is more powerful than a single customer-facing expert. 

“How can we all bring a little bit of joy to improve the customer experience?” Prayag asked. “Giving user access to different parts of the organization is useful to everyone’s job. It will help you reach your quota and your goal. Bringing the product team in can actually help you close a deal.”

All teams need to talk to your users

More B2B organizations are recognizing the power of talking to users and that everyone in the organization is responsible for good UX.  Both Prayag and Dave consider themselves lucky for working in organizations that understand the importance of designers having access to customers. But if everyone plays a part in UX, everyone needs access to users. Only allowing certain teams access can hinder the outcome.

“It’s like the game of telephone. When we’re talking, things get lost in translation,” Dave said. “The same thing happens in organizations where you’re not allowing designers and product people to connect with the customers directly.” If a small amount of user research gets mistranslated at each step, the final message could be wildly different from the original. “That’s why it’s so important to hear those things firsthand and be able to ask probing questions.”

Talking to your users requires a plan. Dave begins by writing out a hypothesis and outlining the purpose of the interview. Next, decide how to prepare for the interview. “What do you want to get out of the interview?” is a solid starting point. Make sure to leave space for customers to answer open-ended questions.

You don’t need a 100-page document to get prepared. But some structure is necessary to get the most out of each interview.

Design for one user persona, not everyone

When talking to your users, you’ll identify a set of personas. Some products have a small number, while others (like Airbnb and Apple) have hundreds of personas. Design, however, can’t make a product for hundreds of personas. Successful organizations design their product for one or two personas, and they dedicate all their energy into making that design is superb.

“Even at bigger companies, if you design for everybody, you’re not going to design for anybody,” Prayag said.

Identify a few important personas through research, and make sure those people have the best experience.

Great design (and great designers) have the power

Successful B2B organizations have made room at the table for design. Some have several seats that focus on design a great customer experience.

With this power comes great responsibility. Design has the power to transform the company and the product vision. And designers can influence the future vision by translating an obscure company vision into a clear product vision. 

If you’re curious to hear more about why design is for everyone, check out the full talk.

Photo by Ankur Khandelwal on Unsplash.

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