Most designers start their career in design because they have a strong passion and enthusiasm for the craft, and they have a natural aptitude for creating beautiful, functional designs. Designers are driven by the desire to create something that will bring joy and utility to people’s lives, and this fuels them to create innovative, meaningful designs.
I’ve always felt this way myself. Crafting a new feature, getting lost in the details of a menu bar, defining a navigation or a graph in a dashboard – it’s something I love. What I love most is the chance to think about users and how my designs can remove the friction I’ve identified through research.
Unfortunately, designers get a reality check when designing in a world driven by profit and less by user experience. Businesses’ primary goal is to generate revenue, so they are always looking for ways to increase their earnings, less about eliminating friction for users.
This can lead to a conflict between design and business. Often this means that designers see the business getting in the way of creativity, and they become disconnected from the work they do. It can be challenging for designers to maintain enthusiasm for their projects when business interests seem to take priority over creativity.
I have been in this position in my career, proposing ideas and designs that I strongly believed could have improved the user experience. However, I felt ignored by the business. The more I focused on the details of my design, the more distant I became from the business.
The contrast between design and business is most evident when designers are excluded from crucial product discussions. What can designers do to be included in the conversations? Designers need to talk business.
Yes, designers must be able to communicate the importance of user experience in business terms and find a balance between user needs and business objectives. Designers must often find a way to balance between creating a product or service that appeals to users and also results in a successful business model. This may sound hard for designers, but it doesn’t mean that you need to get a business degree. The main aim is to be able to influence people above you, and you don’t need to stop designing beautiful interfaces that delight users. Simply leverage your knowledge of the users to guide the business in making better decisions to shift critical metrics.
Here are three easy steps you can take today to improve your work:
Understand business metrics
Pay close attention to business goals, their objectives, and the metrics they are monitoring
Frame your design ideas in business terms
Show how your design helps with cost savings, profitability, efficiency and/or speed to market
Use research to influence decision
Utilise your research more effectively by focussing on what decisions should be made and why