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Reducing the risk of design

Light, flexible, do even less, and more. Again and again, design culture encourages us to push rapidly to the point where design is a pure thread in the larger corporate spool and trim research and design operations.

Writer and author Nikki Anderson describes the implications of this pressure to perform high speed research: "Once we are asked to synthesize at light pace, user research is a way for teams to take a shortcut — to create conclusions based on quick associations, thoughts, and quotes."

The effect is design based on assumptions, or incomplete user and customer knowledge. For example, a Fortune 500 company (let's call it Company Q) hired me to do a usability test for a complex user interface (usability testing includes a series of one-on-one sessions with actual users who are asked to perform different tasks when using a product or piece of software).

The study yielded what would possibly become identifiable patterns and when I was told to pause and send the results to the client immediately I was halfway through the research. My clarification of the need for more time to perform a detailed and nuanced review fell on deaf ears: "Just send a short video." I reticently submitted a video snippet of a user interface ( UI) struggling participant.

There was no time for context, background or nuance. Company Q product manager remembered the person in the video from a previous experience and dismissed his struggles: "He's a crank, we can't base decisions on him." Without discussing this serious UI problem, the company passed on.

This sales manager had been addicted to his client emotionally (see endowment effect below). This emotional attachment impeded his capacity to objectively assess the strengths and weaknesses of the product. It's no wonder that professionals are forming positive feelings about their products.

Comprehensible but also troublesome. As explained in an article about UX's ROI by UX guru Jared Spool, ignoring user needs carries a high cost: assume you get a lot of support calls, for example, because the design doesn't do anything that users expect. That's a high cost because of a bad judgment on the design.

How expensive? The average cost of a single support call in North America is $15,56 according to HDI's Jeffrey Rumburg. Even though support calls only increase by 83,000 per month, the annual cost is more than $15 million.

Conversely, functions to solve interface issues. According to the McKinsey report, "The Business Value of Design": "One online gaming company found that a slight increase in the usability of its homepage was followed by a dramatic 25 percent increase in sales." Note: For this study, McKinsey tracked the design practices of 300 publicly listed companies in multiple countries and industries over a five-year period. This interviewed or questioned their senior management and architecture members. The McKinsey team gathered more than two million pieces of financial information and reported over 100,000 design actions.

Such figures illustrate the direct financial costs of rushing market research and shortchanging customer and company interests. We also demonstrate the financial value of addressing consumer issues.

I will shed light on the approaches used in this article to resolve these concerns: carefully choosing a study location; negotiating with stakeholders to provide ample time for review without disrupting the design process; making rational, evidence-based design decisions; engaging in design reduction.

1. Background Over Comfort: Why Location Matters

Where you carry out analysis, matters as much as the method of study. Consider the value of the venue before booking a room for your next interview with users. You may not want to book a quiet meeting room if the users operate with multiple distractions in a noisy environment. The user experience will actually help you determine the best research approach for collecting feedback (interviews, diary analyses, observation / contextual enquiry, usability tests, cognitive walkthroughs, etc.).

That is exactly what happened when our team conducted UX research for a major construction equipment manufacturer. We should have taken machine operators to a quiet showroom to ask them questions about the machinery and what was working well and what was not.

That would have been the easy choice but the wrong one. Instead, we traveled to U.S. , Mexico, and Colombia construction sites where we observed operators using the equipment outside where it was dusty, dirty, and noisy.

Observations on the field included: chances of traffic accidents due to noise, and poor visibility in high winds.

The challenge faced by shorter operators when they entered the cab for certain controls (operators in Latin America were, on average, smaller than their counterparts in the USA).

The rapid corrosion of metal equipment on a construction site near the ocean, caused by salt.

Observing consumers in their real-world work environment: Minimized the chance of solving the wrong problem, because we did not rely on sales or product second-hand knowledge (this occurs more frequently than you would think).

We (the researchers) were allowed to hear the wind, see the dust and feel the bumps when riding on these massive machines.

Given actionable information not collected in an office.

Our study at sites in Mexico and Colombia has shown the old adage to be valid. Meeting users where they worked on a daily basis yielded rich, qualitative data which our client used to inform important design decisions.

2. Concession

That was a good result. Real-world problems were identified in the fieldwork in Mexico and Colombia, and stakeholders acted on that information.

That's not always the case here. As happened with Walmart when management decided to change aisle and shelving design based on a customer survey, there is a temptation to make design decisions quickly based on incomplete information. When asked to customers if the stores were too cluttered they said yes. Walmart spent millions re-designing stores only to lose sales in excess of $ 1 billion. Sales increased when Walmart reverted to the cluttered aisles. What went wrong?

A poorly worded survey and inadequate study were undoubtedly two factors for the debacle. Walmart depended too much on what customers said and not what they were doing. In consumer and user experience the value of putting significant weight on what applications and consumers are doing is a cornerstone concept.

Underhill, a business and market research pioneer, is completely correct. Unfortunately, even when stakeholders decide to finance research (ride-alongs, shop-alongs, contextual inquiry), tremendous pressure is exerted to move forward when a UX or market study is completed, leaving little time for detailed examination.

The goal is to strike a balance between pace and thoroughness in these situations. Brand managers and other stakeholders have a lot of responsibility and are often under pressure to rapidly transfer goods into the market. Nevertheless, rushing the design process will result in the emergence of research into ignoring key user needs.

Compromise serves two purposes throughout the passage from study review to design. Firstly, it provides ample time for researchers to study, evaluate and report reliable and actionable results that will help the design team move forward. Second, as with any undertaking, a willingness to compromise sets a degree of confidence.

3. Decisions on better functionality

Compromise and trust are a solid basis for establishing a collaborative partnership between researchers, designers and stakeholders. These partnerships lead to an conducive environment for better design decisions. Those points tend to be simple, even transparent.

Perhaps straightforward but not easily attainable. Why? For what? Human character. Human beings are subject to what psychologists term the endowment effect, the tendency simply because they belong to you to overvalue objects that you own. A typical example of selling a house is. You are emotionally attached to your house as the landlord, as you have put effort into repairs and upgrades. The house has pretty good memories. You live there, after all. The buyer does not say much of this. She just cares about the objective market value and for the least amount of money, she gets the best house.

It is difficult for people to part from the object, a house in this case, once the endowment effect holds onto. Changing a UI or physical object in the sense of design is approximately equal to parting with it.

For example, the product manager announced to me and a room full of stakeholders while reviewing a complex UI for a programmable logic controller: "My name is Jim, and I love this product." Honesty points. As predicted, Jim held fast to his conviction when I presented the report that the UI was perfect and didn't need change. He was attached, unsurprisingly, to the computer and the UI.

The evidence supports this statement. According to the McKinsey study listed above: "Less than 5 percent of those we surveyed indicated that their members could make rational design decisions." One of the challenges to making sound design decisions is the endowment effect. See A Designer's Guide to Good Decisions to learn how to avoid other can mistakes in making decisions.

Knowledge of the endowment effect and other decision traps leads to better design, as it helps us to make difficult decisions during the actual process.

4. Reduction of Architecture

One such option is whether to delete from an current design or from early iteration of design. For instance, the image below left could easily be an early iteration of a mobile app. Few would dispute the power of simple, elegant, and engaging design. Sometimes, these results benefit from deliberate, thoughtful reduction. From the number and size of the elements on the screen to the simplicity or complexity of the color palette, it's all about the the design to the point that it's simple and easy to use without losing something significant.

A designer could also ask in the cleaner example (above right) if "This Month" and "165: Max Pulse" are required. If not, cutting them will be another downsizing.

The point is not to discuss the specifics of the UI for this fake fitness program. Instead, designers will expect the "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" effect and recommend eliminating unnecessary elements of design. Effective strategies include: Gently remembering the dangers of a high cognitive load to stakeholders and other team members.

Sharing cluttered designs with the team (any app or website will do) and asking them to quickly find a particular feature. Their battle to find the feature should make the case.

Sharing video clips of your company's past research projects demonstrating how quickly users get overwhelmed while communicating with a crowded UI.

By adhering to this reduction strategy early in the design process, the company gains by reducing the risk of customer frustration, task or cart abandonment, and dissatisfied clients.

Design reduction is important for creating engaging, user-centric design but works only when combined with robust user research that leads to informed design decisions.


Since analysis, decisions, and the design process go hand in hand, the focus of this article has been on identifying the risks of user testing and design rushing. Mitigating this risk does not demand that research and design teams double in size. We have also introduced four concrete strategies that teams can quickly implement: Meaning over Convenience: Position matters. Either at home, in a café, or on a noisy construction site, perform UX and market research where consumers engage with your product.

Compromise Compromise If market customers can not necessarily demand a detailed review, compromise. The design team will move forward with minor design changes in the direction of the stakeholder, while promising not to make significant changes until the final review of the study is complete.

Better design decisions Allow better choices by keeping an eye out for the all-too-human propensity to get attached to a design you made.

Reduction Remove redundant UI components leaving only what users and clients need to complete the task at hand.

As a reputed Software Solutions Developer we have expertise in providing dedicated remote and outsourced technical resources for software services at very nominal cost. Besides experts in full stacks We also build web solutions, mobile apps and work on system integration, performance enhancement, cloud migrations and big data analytics. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!

This article is contributed by Ujjainee. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science . She likes most about Computer Engineering is that it allows her to learn and be creative. Also, She believes in sharing knowledge hence is very fond of writing technical contents for the same. Coding, analyzing and blogging are things which She can keep on doing!!


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