Traditional thinking dictates that designers create the products and marketers sell them.
Then along came Apple and its beautifully designed products that practically sold themselves with almost zero marketing effort.
What came next was a huge amount of mediocre products needing ever-increasing budgets in order to highlight differences and features that may not have existed in the first place.
User experience designer and CEO of Clearleft Andy Budd believes that product and marketing teams need to work closer together and that the relatively new field of User Experience Design is the glue to achieve that.
I spoke to Andy Budd about all matters relating to UX last week.
Andy Budd is also one of the speakers at Econsultancy’s Festival of Marketing in November. Our two day celebration of the modern marketing industry also featuring speakers from LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.
Do you feel that companies have a better idea about what UX design means now, or do you still have to explain what the difference is between UX and design?
When we first started Clearleft back in 2005, very few people had heard of User Experience, so we had to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the process, and why we didn’t just open up Photoshop.
Fortunately things have changed and now all of our clients have a familiarity with User Experience to a greater or lesser degree. As such, conversations tend to revolve around our particular approach and experience, rather than what UX is.
What are the core principles of ‘good’ UX? Are there any features you feel are completely vital, that are perhaps overlooked by many developers?
In the context of most digital services, a good user experience is one that helps a user accomplish their tasks in the most efficient, effective and enjoyable way possible.
However user experience is very context sensitive, so what may be a good experience for one set of users could be a bad one for another. As such it’s important to avoid making too many generalisations or assumptions and treat each problem in it’s own right.
You’ve talked before about the barrage of mediocre products that followed the iPhone’s ‘design over marketing’ lead. Is this still the case or has there been an improvement in the relationship between marketing and product teams?
Marketing teams are great at making people want products. However as my friend John Wiltshire says, we actually need to be making products people want. Sadly all too often the marketing team are handed a mediocre product they are then forced to sell. Either that or the marketing vision for the product fails to stand up to reality.
As such I think product and marketing need to be much more integrated than they are currently. More importantly, I think the marketing department needs to be in service of the product team (as is the case at Apple), rather than the other way round.
What was your honest gut-reaction towards Apple’s new iPhone 6 and watch during yesterday’s unveiling?
This is the first Apple release I’ve not followed on the live stream, watched unfold on Twitter or checked out the commentary online afterwards. So in one word, I’d say Meh!
How much trust realistically should a company have in the design of its product over investment in marketing?
Author and design commentator Seth Godin would argue that companies should shift their entire marketing budgets over to product. I wouldn’t go that far, but I’d suggest that more than half your budget should be spent creating great products and the rest marketing them.
How do you see the future of UX in B2B? When will we finally see an end to dreadful, hard-to use platforms or company portals in the office?
We’ve all become so accustomed to great consumer digital experience that we’re starting to expect—if not demand—the same of our B2B products. So I’ve seen plenty of MDs buy their first tablet, seduced by the latest consumer apps, only to become incensed when they fire up their own website and realise how far it falls short.
The US tech scene was quick to realise this demand, so most of the new B2B services coming out of California have really well considered interfaces. So the problem is less with B2B, as it is with enterprise software, which invariably lags behind.
Where’s the line between simple design and potentially baffling ambiguity?
A lot of people interpret user experience design as making something as easy to use as possible, and end up stripping away useful features and affordances. An example of this would be the digital service that makes it super easy for you to sign up, but impossible for you to unsubscribe online.
Similarly, while some products can be incredibly simple (like booking a taxi) other services have an inherent complexity (like the flight deck of a plane). So I worry that a lot of start-ups focus on simple problems, at the expense of more meaningful but complex ones.
What’s the worst thing to ever happen to UX design?
That’s a really interesting question, and one I place squarely at the feet of the design industry. Over the last six years we’ve seen a massive rise in demand for UX services, but a corresponding lack of supply. In response, a lot of agencies and individuals have added User Experience Design to their titles or list of services, without really understanding what it means. This has started to devalue the industry and caused some professional bodies to raise the spectre of certification, which I don’t think benefits anybody.
How excited are you for the future of connected devices and wearable tech?
Growing up on a diet of James Bond and Joe 90, who didn’t want a watch you could talk into, or a set of glasses that made you super smart? Now all we need to do is stop people looking like such dorks when they use them!
For me, wearable technology is an interesting curiosity, and will undoubtedly become more useful over the coming years. However I’m more interested in pushing technology to the background, than wearing it on my face. As such, I’m probably more excited about connected homes, ambient devices and the Internet of Things, all of which have been gestating for 20 plus years, but which are finally coming to the fore thanks to services like Kickstarter.
For more UX insight, Andy Budd will be speaking at our Festival of Marketing. Join us for in November for a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.