The visible and hidden ROI of user experience

Design is hot. When Thomas Watson Jr, the oracle IBM CEO told in 1973 that good design is good for business, the idea seemed exotic and silly, but the recent decade shows a growing understanding of companies of varying sizes and industries that design can indeed be good to their business. The technological innovation of the past is no longer enough, and today consumers expect flowing, delightful experiences in every product they interact with be it a dating app or an enterprise software they use at work.

Return on investment (ROI) of user experience comes in different ways that are not always visible on the bottom line, but these are in many cases as much important as money saved by a design approach to product development.

The Visible

The business case for investing in good user experience show clearly from market performance and development costs of industry leaders.



Companies that invest in user experience make more money.

Design drives exceptional returns for shareholders, a “Design Value Index” produced by Motiv Strategies and the Design Management Institute consist of 15 carefully selected companies with institutional understanding of design. This index of companies like Nike, Starbucks, Apple and other design leaders beat the S&P by 228% over the last decade. A similar study by Watermark Consulting in 2013 found that not only customer experience leaders outperformed the S&P by large margin, but experience laggards trailed it by a wide margin.



UX saves development time.

User experience activities reduce development inefficiencies. By helping define usability requirements upfront re-work is avoided, which can stop wasted development time by up to 50%. Involving users also helps decision making and prioritization of development task that leads to between 30%-50% reduced development time.

UI of software takes about 50% of a typical project total code, and about 40% of total development time. Focus on getting the user interface right as early as possible saves required unforeseen fixes and making changes when it’s too expansive or too late.



UX builds brands.

Good user experience has a history of building great brands. Tech giants as Amazon and Intuit built themselves by focusing early on costumer experience and usability. Hot billion dollar startups like airbnb depend on understanding their costumers and giving them highly usable and delightful products.


“When we started talking to our customers and seeing how they used our service, it was the defining moment of success that turned the company around.” – Mike Gebbia


User acceptance is the key for the success of products; it is cited as top priority by 72% versus 16% software functionality. Forrester’s “Rich Internet Application Errors to Avoid” notes that lack of user acceptance is responsible for 70% failure of all started projects.



But there are more effects to investing in good user experience that are not always as obvious and visible at first glance.


The Hidden

Good design can benefit your employees as much as your costumers and drive more value for the bottom line.



UX helps morale

Developers, especially talented developers would rather write good code than waste their time on getting the user interface right. Without proper user experience research and implementation, not only the outcome is ugly, unusable and clunky products but also discouraged developers that will leave for the chance to focus on technology and code.



Social Inclusion

World Health Organization fact sheen on visual impairment and blindness cites that 246,000,000 people worldwide have low vision and another 360,000,000 suffer from hearing loss. Good design, with accessibility in mind not only makes it possible for these people to use your products as a costumer but also gives this growing population a chance to participate in the workforce, benefiting all.



Design saves lives

And liability costs for the healthcare industry. A Nielsen Norman Group field study on medical usability identified 22 common usability mistakes that can result in the wrong medication being dispensed to patients.  Poor readability of systems, misleading values and overly complicated workflows, combined with the stressful environment that the hospital staff operates in results in many avoidable mistakes, costs and patient suffering.


Bottom Line

Not only investing in good design will gain you up to $10 for every dollar spent, it is simply the right thing to do. Market performance will continue to push companies to invest heavily in user experience, and in every industry, leaders will be those that will figure this first.




The visible and hidden ROI of user experience
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