Macadamian Blog

Part 1: The Competitive Advantage of Using User Experience

Scott Plewes

Introducing the five steps to using user experience to design

This is the first in a series of posts by Scott Plewes.

Great products rarely happen by accident, even when it looks effortless. They are a result of an intentional design process that is grounded in the understanding that users get two essential values out of a product.
1. An emotional value (“I love my iPod”)
2. A utilitarian value (“A mobile phone…wow, now I can call my friends from anywhere!”).

These are linked in the sense that it’s pretty hard to have an emotional value (at least a positive one!) without at least some utilitarian value. Emotional and utilitarian values are delivered by three aspects of design (again related):

1. Aesthetics
The product looks good, is “fun” to interact with, has slick transitions and a “clean” layout, is symmetrical, feels “professional”, is “cool”, etc.

2. Functionality
It just does things I value. For example, I value that I can scan my computer for viruses. I dislike that I have to work hard to figure out how, but I do value that I can do it.

3. Usability
The way functionality is delivered. Is it effective, efficient, satisfying, and simple?

Most companies, especially technology companies, focus primarily on the utilitarian value of the product and the functionality of the product design. For many product development programs, success is defined by the num- ber features that can be squeezed into each release cycle!

Yet a great product delivers a user experience that combines aesthetics, functionality and usability to meet both the user’s emotional and utilitarian needs. So how can a company ensure that it gets great products out the door?

We see five dimensions of success in organizations that do this well:
1.They have expertise in house and/or call on experts in UX when they need it;
2.They use appropriate techniques to obtain and understand user input;
3.The leadership and culture in the company appreciates the value and necessity of UX design from a business point of view;
4.There are connected and integrated processes that enable individuals to work together to create the user experience of the product(s); and
5.The principles of UX design are applied in the broadest perspective possible to drive consistent customer experience

Considering these criteria, we have created a model for assessing what “stage” of UX design maturity a company is in. Stay posted as we describe the 5 common stages so you can assess where your business is and what is needed to progress along the path to creating great user experiences in your products.

For more information, please read our latest whitepaper entitled A UX Maturity Model for Companies Seeking Competitive Advantage.

Author Overview

Scott Plewes

As VP User Experience Design, Scott brings over 20 years of experience in understanding customers and how to incorporate their needs into software product design. He's put his skills to work on overseeing the user experience design of dozens of desktop, Web, and mobile applications. Scott holds a Master's degree in Science from Queen's University, and prior to Macadamian, he worked as part of Nortel's Usability Design Group. While Scott would have you believe he is an ardent NFL and NHL supporter, he is still a physics geek at heart. His secret passions include bad science fiction movies and even worse - action ones; and trying to understand Shakespeare… and failing badly. When Scott is not working he's either his kids personal chauffeur, or more likely sound asleep on the couch… the one hobby he has truly mastered.