Charles Kettering once said, “A problem well-defined is a problem half-solved.” In other words, identifying the problem is half the battle. Many businesses don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to user experience. They may know that something is missing in their UX design, but lack the personal knowledge or experience to pinpoint what it is. And without knowing what the problem is, they certainly can’t work on solving it effectively.
That’s why some of the highest value work Drawbackwards offers to our clients is the process we go through to match our clients’ needs to what we’ll deliver. This pre-engagement discovery requires curiosity, exploration, and asking the right questions. With more than 20 years of experience defining UX problems in dozens (if not hundreds) of different contexts, we’re able to help businesses identify and acknowledge their specific problems so we can get to work solving them together.
In this post, we draw back the curtain on our thought process to expose the four types of UX needs most organizations have, along with the six ways Drawbackwards works to solve them.
The four types of needs most organizations have
Over two decades, we’ve helped hundreds of companies solve their various UX design problems. With that much data, we’ve been able to notice patterns in organizations’ needs. A vast majority of the time, companies need help in one of the following areas: (1) resource, (2) innovation, (3) knowledge, or (4) deliverable.
Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these needs, including how to tell if this is the need your business is facing.
Most companies we see have a need for additional design “resources.” Just a few years ago, 20,000 open UX design positions were available in the U.S. alone. Yet, only about 500 design students were graduating each year from major universities. (Note: most universities have hundreds of design students in “lower division” but only 15 or 20 are admitted to “upper division” and graduate with a design degree.)
Clearly, there’s a resource gap. Companies need talented UX designers, but there is a severe shortage. So what do they do? They may try recruiting, which takes time (and draws from a very small pool of talented designers). Or, they may outsource, looking for a seasoned UX design partner—a firm with an experienced team ready to lead the way.
The latter is where we come in. We help augment our customers’ teams by bringing our years of experience and expertise to the table. Or, if the company happens to already have an internal design team, but is experiencing some kind of frustration with them, we can help by offering invaluable training to those internal teams.
The following table illustrates the line of thinking a company may have if they have a resource UX design problem—whether the problem is known or not.
|Known||You need designers||“I need to augment my team”||Any of Drawbackwards’ services||More gets done, faster|
|Unknown||You’re frustrated with your team’s pace and/or quality||“I just can’t get what I want done internally”||Drawbackwards consulting and any other services||More gets done, faster|
Learn how we helped Choice Hotels, a major online travel industry leader, when they knew their existing design staff wasn’t operating as a high performance team. Read the case study.
Question for you
Does your company have a resource, team, or design leadership need? If so, do you need to add to your design team, or uplevel the team you already have?
The second common UX design need we see is innovation. Most companies manage a number of bets placed in their innovation portfolio, which is typically defined on four axes: (1) innovation for existing customers, (2) innovation that attracts new customers, (3) innovation of existing product lines, and (4) innovation into new product lines.
When trying to manage these four axis, Design Thinking capabilities are essential. We’re well versed in both Design Thinking (Tim Brown’s approach) as well as Clayton Christensen’s ways of managing innovation and the “Job to be Done” (JTBD) framework. We use both MFA and MBA thinking to solve innovation challenges.
See the following table for insight into the thoughts behind a need for innovation.
|Known||You want a fresh approach||“I want unconstrained ideas and new kinds of data”||Research. Design. Development.||Lightbulb moment of change|
|Unknown||Your struggling in the market||“We’re at risk of falling behind in the market”||Drawbackwards consulting. Research. Design. Development.||Lightbulb moment of change|
We helped an industry-leading solar company, First Solar, develop innovative solar prediction software for significantly improved accuracy and production time. Read more here.
Question for you
Does your company have an innovation portfolio or approach? Do you need to augment your innovation efforts with Design Thinking, or do you want to give your team approaches to innovation based on Design Thinking?
Leaders and managers at most companies often tell us that they’d like their staff to embrace the idea of lifelong learning. Many of them seem to believe that this learning will somehow happen magically—perhaps when your staff seeks out new knowledge on nights and weekends. (Spoiler alert: that doesn’t happen often.)
Here’s what we’ve found. Over the last five to ten years, just about every company we know of has invested in creating internal design teams. However, with the exception of a few companies like USAA, Apple, and Logitech, very few companies have hired a Chief Design Officer to guide the maturation of the investment they’ve made in creating internal design teams.
Commonly, the result is that companies are paying high salaries to design teams without senior design leadership. In these cases, we step in to help train design staff members. Our job is to be a value multiplier to the existing design team investment. And, we do this in a way that empowers and energizes the existing staff, rather than threatening or overwhelming them.
The table below may help you identify if your team is struggling with a knowledge problem.
|Known||You need training||“My team needs to learn your approach”||Training for ANY Drawbackwards service||Efficiency, tribal knowledge kept in-house|
|Unknown||You’re not able to assess team’s maturity level||“Just give us XYZ, we can take it from there”||Drawbackwards Consulting, then training||Efficiency, tribal knowledge kept in-house|
We helped the internal team at Sophos “reskin” one of their mobile apps in about half the time they originally estimated it would take, while also making the app significantly more user friendly. Read more about how we did it.
Question for you
Is your company getting the most from your existing investment into your design team?
For companies that have mature design practices, it’s more likely that they’ll know exactly where bottlenecks occur in their software and product development lifecycle. Sometimes, these companies simply don’t have enough design staff on hand (and for various reasons, can’t hire more). Sometimes, there is a discrete design need for which they don’t have specific skill sets, and thus need outside help.
In either case, Drawbackwards stands ready to fill in the gaps for work that can’t be completed in-house.
|Summary||Voice of the customer||Specific deliverables||Outcomes|
|Known||You need a specific deliverable||“I need X by Y date”||Any Drawbackwards services||Time to market|
|Unknown||You know there’s a need for a certain delivery channel but don’t know what not deliverable is needed||“We need better app UX, but are unsure how to fix it”||Drawbackwards consulting and any other services||Faster time to market, reduction of costs, UX leadership|
Tuft and Needle, pioneers in the mattress industry, wanted to solve a complex customer support problem, quickly. So they turned to Drawbackwards to help with a faster turnaround than they could do on their own. Read the case study.
Question for you
Do you have a mature design organization, but are facing a discrete deliverable that can’t be completed in-house due to skill or staffing constraints?
Six ways Drawbackwards services our clients’ needs
Now that we looked at the four types of design needs companies like yours have, lets look at the six categories of services Drawbackwards offers to solve for those needs. Remember, even if you don’t contact or hire Drawbackwards, it can be helpful to use the four need areas of needs above and the six categories of solutions below in order to arrive at what Charles Kettering would call … “a problem well-defined”.
|Consulting services||Summary||Problem this service solves|
|Rapid prototyping for risk reduction||Rapid prototyping helps to validate product market fit and reduce the time and costs to develop new innovation.||“We’re building this new XYZ …” (But, what without first validating they’re building what they know the market will want.)|
|Design Thinking||Design Thinking is a codified and cross-disciplinary approach to innovation that’s worked for decades.||“We need new ways to frame opportunities and new ways to solve them. We need to strengthen our innovation portfolio”|
|Design org design||Design your design org to better return the most from your existing investment in design staff.||"Over the last 5 years we’ve hired great designers, but we’re certain we’re not getting the most from the team.|
|Design ops design||Design your design operations to increase the ROI of your design lifecycle and design contributions to product, engineering and marketing functions.||“We have great designers but I don’t think they’ve ever had to work with this volume of different projects and such a diverse group of teams”|
|Design team training||Use design team training to get the most from your new or tried-and-true design teams.||"Over the last 5 years we’ve hired great designers, but we’re certain we’re not getting the most from the team.”|
|Design Studio||Design studios align cross-functional teams with a re-usable approach to collaboration, ideation and innovation.||“We’ve tried collaboration between teams before but often in up in more meetings with less ownership and outcomes of the meetings. A few people shine in these meetings and rest are frustrated they can’t use the time to get back to work.”|
|Design sprint||Design sprints embrace constraints to take a problem through the design thinking lifecycle in quick, time-boxed, low risk, high yield process with hard outcomes like prototypes or shippable production-ready design assets that go straight to engineering.||“We need faster ways to test new ideas with real end customers. We just don’t feel like we’re getting the most from our design team.”|
We use strategic thinking based on decades of experience and understanding the business case and how it is deployed for customer and employee needs. These services include:
|Strategy services||Summary||Problem this service solves|
|Usability research||Usability research discovers where friction exists throughout your offering in a way that makes it obvious how to resolve.||“We hear too often from customers that our products aren’t very easy to use. But, we’re not sure why and how to methodically fix the issues in a way that aligns with our corporate KPIs.”|
|Customer journey mapping||Through the customer’s eyes, uncover where your business excels and where you fall short.||“Our NPS (or CSAT) has flatlined and despite efforts, we can’t get it to budge.”|
|CX research||Customer experience research connects where your internal processes help or hurt your external customer experience.||“We have a fair amount of CX resources these days, but don’t do a great job measuring their work. That’s a lot of capital invested into the CX program without solid benchmarks.”|
|Envisioning||Design envisioning jolts unconstrained new life into your current people, process and products.||“It’s strategically important that we bring fresh product and service ideas this quarter.” And … “Our board would like us to paint a picture of our future products and services, 2 to 5 years out”.|
|Persona development||Personas allow product and marketing teams to better meet the unique needs of your customers by learning what different groups of customers and buyers think, feel, see, say and do.||“Our customers … When companies only talk about a single customer type, we know they haven’t created personas and thus have an opportunity to better meet the needs of the market. Additionally, there are personas that sit close to the customer in the supply chain, that when delighted, will delight your customers and drive NPS, loyalty and revenue.”|
|“Design system” creation||Design systems dramatically increase design efficiency across your organization—if you don’t have a design system you’re not doing design right.||“We often have a bottleneck at the design team”. And … “We have developers, sales and marketing people creating assets and experiences that are off-brand.”|
|Design ROI analysis||Yes, the efficacy of design can be quantified—run design ROI analysis to determine where to double-down and where to cut losses in your design investments.||“We measure throughout of our design team but not efficacy.”|
We arrive at innovative product and service offerings through a better understanding of people’s needs. Research services include:
|Research services||Summary||Problem this service solves|
|Heuristic evaluation||Heuristic evaluations resolve friction and increase engagement by objectively auditing your user experience, based on 10 usability best practices.||“Where is their friction in our software user experience?” And … “Our software looks great, but we don’t get high app store ratings. How do we fix this.”|
|Competitor usability testing||Competitor usability testing often can create a competitive edge by learning from your competitor’s usability strengths and weaknesses.||“We’ve been losing some business to a few new startups in our space. We need to compete better.”|
|Usability testing||Usability testing reduces the monetary and reputational risks of taking new products and ideas to market.||“Our apps, website and software are functional, but I never hear customers rave about the experience.”|
|Contextual inquiry research||Contextual inquiry is one of Design Thinking’s secret weapons—it informs radically specific outcomes that matter most to your customers.||“Zero” (When asked how often the firm “gets out of the building” and observes their customers use their products and services in their natural context of use.)|
|Paper prototype testing||Paper prototype usability testing reduces the monetary and reputational risks of taking new products and ideas to market.||“Our prototypes are always coded by the engineers”. And … “We typically build MVPs before we build full-featured new products”. And … “It typically takes a few weeks to a few months to build a prototype that we can test.”|
|Product Ideation||Product ideation asks the right questions, of the right people, in order to envision many and widely varied futures for your product lines—whose outcome is incredibly motivating for internal teams and leadership.||“We whiteboard our ideas before we build them.” And … “We have a few vocal team mates whose ideas are typically built, since they have the dominant voice in the meetings.”|
|Accessibility review||Accessibility reviews increase the number of people using your software, mitigate legal risks and mitigate compliance risks by understanding the degrees to which your systems are usable by people with disabilities.||“We’ve never completed a VPAT.” And … “We’ve never audited our software accessibility.” And … “We concerned about the exponential volume of lawsuits against private sector companies for websites and apps that are not accessible to people with disabilities.” And … “We’re required to comply with ADA (or Section 508).”|
Our design services allow us to work with clients to create user interfaces, prototypes, customer journey workflows, and more, while consistently looking for ways to improve overall experience.
|Design services||Summary||Problem this service solves|
|Rapid prototyping||Rapid prototyping reduces monetary and time-based risks associated with building new features and products.||“After we brainstorm and whiteboard a set of ideas—and sometimes create formal product requirement documents—we get to coding.”|
|Mobile app design||Great mobile app design helps ensure you build apps that delight—and even give meaning—to your users.||“We need to augment our internal mobile dev team for this engagement.” And … “It allows our dev team to focus on their highest and best use if you delivered your iOS and Android design work in code and Lottie files that are already integrated.”|
|Web design||Great web design is driven by business ROI and executed well with cross-disciplinary teams.||“We have a design team internally, but want web design experts to ensure we’re creating a world-class site experience.”|
|UI design||Great user interface design reduces costs, attracts new customers and differentiates you in the market.||“Our engineering team has been building off the work another agency did years ago.”|
|Copy writing / editing||Great copywriting and editing must accompany great design work—it’s why we pair designers and copywriters for most work.||“We have a few writers in marketing, but they don’t get micro-copy and they don’t typically get involved in our product design work.”|
|Illustrations||Great illustrations humanize and differentiate your product or service in the market.||“We’ve always used stock art, stock icons and stock photography. We all agree it’s time to differentiate our brand in the market with world-class imagery that is uniquely ours and helps to extend our visual identity and brand.”|
|Persuasive design presentations||Persuasive design presentations are backed by data and logic in order to push timid thinkers into the future.||“We have designers but not design leadership that can present to our executive staff or board.”|
|Information arch. / taxonomy||Great information architecture is informed by personas, usability testing and hands-on methods, such as card sorting.||“Our customer support keeps telling us that our customers can’t find what they’re looking for.”|
We offer high-performance development services that meet a wide range of needs.
|Dev services||Summary||Problem this service solves|
|CMS dev||CMS development ensures your website is easily updated by non-technical staff, optimized for the business, data-ready, extensible.||“We need non-technical staff to be able to update just about anything on the site, but still have guardrails for design consistency, accessibility controls and page load time optimizations.”|
|Software engineering||Great engineering (PHP, iOS, Android, .NET, JS) is poetic and in being so increases its half life, reduces long term technical debt and speed to market for new products and services.||“We need to augment our dev team. As we do, we’d like you to share some best practices, not only technical, but also agile process-related.”|
|Front end dev / React / Node / JS||Great front-end development (React, Node, JS) is secure, fast, enables great user experiences, which increases NPS and engagement.||“We need to augment our dev team. As we do, we’d like you to share some best practices, not only technical, but also agile process-related.”|
|Back end performance optimization||Back end performance optimization increases website, app and eCommerce KPIs—even a few milliseconds of reduced page load times increased user engagement and purchase KPIs.||“Our site and apps seem slow and I know it’s costing us in lost revenue.”|
|Website performance optimization||Website performance optimization increases website, app and eCommerce KPIs—even a few milliseconds of reduced page load times increases user engagement and purchase KPIs.||“Our site and apps seem slow and I know it’s costing us in lost revenue.”|
Our subscription services allow our clients to leverage our value on an ongoing basis. This approach is best for maturing teams who want a continuous improvement/deployment model, following Kaizen principles to regularly add value to the customer.
We have two kinds of subscriptions: (1) any and all Drawbackwards’ professional services delivered to you by our design team for a monthly fee, and (2) three SaaS design and customer experience software subscriptions.
|SaaS||Summary||Problem this service solves|
|UX Rings||UX Rings helps product design teams gain user experience insights, sift through feedback, and quantify design decisions with granular, at-a-glance views of where your product UX stands in five key areas: Functional, Usable, Comfortable, Delightful and Meaningful.||“We’ve built-out a design team over the last few years but we’re not sure if we’re getting the most from the team or if we’re measuring the team’s performance in the best way possible.”|
|CX Assessment||CX Assessment creates a one-year plan to drive revenue, based on 2,000+ data points collected in just 4 to 8 weeks, across seven CX dimensions.||We constantly struggle measuring the efficacy of our CX work." And … “I recently took over our CX leadership function and want a holistic baseline from which we can objectively improve either quarterly or half-yearly.”|
|Design.org||Design.org is a white-label daily message platform based on proven principles similar to B.J. Fogg’s “tiny habits”, that creates meaningful change in your constituents lives.||“We’re looking for additional value that can sit on top of our health care wellness programs.”|
Whether you use a firm like Drawbackwards, or work to fill your UX needs in-house, this guide helps you more clearly define your problem, because we believe it when Charles Kettering says, “a problem well-defined is a problem half solved.”