Is it time to pay back your User Experience (UX) debt?

Tony Youssef – Lead Experience Strategist

I wanted to share some thoughts on user experience thinking or actually the lack of it, throughout history.

Now, we all know to some extent what user experience is and what is relates to, so I want you to keep in mind that, essentially the most important requirement of user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer or user, without fuss or bother.

User experience can be described in several different ways – “a persons emotions and attitudes about …” or “overall experience when using …” or “encompasses all aspects of user’s interaction with …” etc and we have all heard the terms multi-channel and omni-channel and offline and online, which makes it really difficult to balance the needs of users (number one rule) and the needs of the business.

Enter UX debt – User Experience (UX) debt is an accumulation of design and development decisions that negatively (or not positively) impact the users of your product or service, so that you can meet a business requirement.

There are two types of UX debt; intentional (deliberate due to constraints) and unintentional (lack of information, misconception and assumptions) and you can tell you are creating this debt when you say “we don’t have time”, “we will fix it later”, “in the next release” and “we don’t have resources.”

So, each time you make a decision to delay the implementation of initiatives aimed at improving your product or service for your user’s, to “sometime in the future” you are accumulating UX debt.

If your next question is “When is my UX debt due?” the answer is “Today!”

Eventually, the gap between performance and product vision becomes too great, leading to an incoherent, unstable and unfriendly experience for users, meaning less of all the good metrics we love to measure – customer satisfaction, traffic and users.

Not all debt is created equally though, so it is important to understand how UX debt can affect your business or organisation and the best way to understand the impact is to get real user feedback.

Now that we know what the problem is, let’s look at how to best pay down your debt.

Ask yourself:

• How can I manage my UX debt?
• How do I know what to work on first?
• When should I start working on it?

1. Create a UX debt register (inventory)

Discover what you debt actually is by using the product and highlight anything you find unintuitive or confusing and take notes, then ask your users the same questions and take more notes.

Reveal all of your debt.

Output: UX debt register (or spreadsheet)

2. Prioritise

It is critical to know where UX debt ranks on the level of importance and you must consider Severity & impact (does it stop users from completing their tasks and produce errors or does it make it annoying but you can still get to where you want)

Rank your UX debt as Critical, Major or Minor.

3. Schedule

Now that you know what the issues are and what to focus on, its time to setup those automatic direct debits.

In conclusion, paying down UX debt can be a daunting task but you are not alone, it is the responsibility of the entire business and using this collaborative approach and having input from all areas ensures that your payment schedule will always reap positive benefits today.

We all know the importance of users to our business or organisation.

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