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When Business Objectives and User Experience Clash

Here’s a question for you: would you agree that creating a great user experience should be the primary aim of any Web designer? I know what your answer is… and youʼre wrong!

Okay, I admit that not all of you would have answered yes, but most probably did. Somehow, the majority of Web designers have come to believe that creating a great user experience is an end in itself. I think we are deceiving ourselves and doing a disservice to our clients at the same time.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

The truth is that business objectives should trump users’ needs every time. Generating a return on investment is more important for a website than keeping users happy. Sounds horrendous, doesn’t it? Before you flame me in the comments, hear me out.

The Harsh Reality Link

Letʼs begin with the harsh truth. If an organization does not believe that it will generate some form of a return on an investment (financial or otherwise), then it should not have a website. In other words, if the website doesn’t pay its way, then we have not done our jobs properly.

Despite what we might think, our primary aim is to fulfill the business objectives set out by our clients. Remember that creating a great user experience is a means to this end. We do not create great user experiences just to make users happy. We do so because we want them to look favorably on the website and take certain actions that will generate the returns that our clients want.


Is the business world at odds with creativity? Image by opensourceway5

User Experience Is Important Link

Let me be clear. Iʼm not suggesting that user experience is unimportant. In fact, I believe that creating an amazing experience is the primary means of helping a website fulfill its business objectives. A well-designed website makes it easy for users to complete the calls to action we have created.

Happy users also provide many other benefits. They can become advocates for your website. A happy user is considerably more likely to recommend your services and is more patient when things occasionally go wrong. Enthusiastic users can also become valuable volunteers; they have innumerable ideas about how your website and products can be improved. They are far more valuable than any focus group!

The point, though, is that happy users generate a return on investment, so spending the time and effort to give them a great experience is worth it.

Business Objectives vs. User Experience Link

You may argue that this is all semantics and that business objectives and user experience actually go hand in hand. Generally, I agree, but there are occasions when the two clash, and at these times we need to be clear that generating a return on investment should trump user experience.

Let me give you an example. We Web designers often complain when clients ask us to add fields to their online forms because they want to collect certain demographic information about their users. We argue, rightly, that this annoys users and damages the user experience. But we need to ask ourselves whether those additional fields would make users not complete the forms at all—as we fear—or would just slightly irritate them. If users ultimately complete the form and the company is able to gather valuable demographic information, then the slight irritation may be worthwhile.

Do You Have The Right Balance? Link

Iʼm a little nervous about this post because I realize that many people could misinterpret what Iʼm saying. But I passionately believe that the Web design community is in danger of becoming blind to all else but user experience. Iʼm convinced we need to spend as much time and effort on understanding and achieving business objectives as we do on creating a great experience.

I’ll end with this: during your last project, how much time did you spend creating personas, testing usability and generally improving the user experience? How does that compare with the amount of time you spent learning about the client’s business objectives and creating great calls to action?

Ask yourself whether you got the balance right.

(al) (ik)

Footnotes Link

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Paul Boag is the author of The User Experience Revolution and a leader in digital strategy with over 20 years experience. Through consultancy, speaking, writing, training and mentoring he passionately promotes digital best practice.

  1. 1

    Well said, Paul.

    Can always count on a thought provoking piece from you. Business trumps UX, but seeking balance is inescapable. Compromise necessary from both sides.

    • 2

      is it compromising? It’s rather co-existing or co-operating… since good UX means good business vice versa.

  2. 3

    Jussi Pasanen

    February 4, 2011 6:17 am

    Good topic. I gather that you’ve polarised this a bit on purpose though, and I think there are many occasions where the answer to the business-vs-ux question is not quite that cut-and-dry.

    In my view usability (and UX as a wider concept) is about focusing on the users’ best interests (1). Once you take this idea far enough it turns into a discussion on ethics. Are in you (and your client) in the business of providing true value to the customers, or moreso after a quick profit? In in other words, are your customers truly at the heart of your business, or is the business itself the centrepoint?

    If users ultimately complete the form and the company is able to gather valuable demographic information, then the slight irritation may be worthwhile.

    Valuable to whom? If the information is collected in order to ultimately provide better customer experience to the users, that goes well with the intent of UX, despite the immediate annoyance. But if it’s collected primarily to just target and upsell and onsell, it’s not in the best interest of the user.

    Also, think about dark patterns – “user interfaces designed to trick people” (2) (GoDaddy checkout process anyone?) and services like online gambling (more streamlined “UX” helps you lose your shirt quicker), for examples that most definitely are not in the user’s best interests, but are carefully crafted to fulfil very specific business objectives. The objectives are met, but it doesn’t make them right.

    So no, business objectives should not trump users’ needs every time.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!



  3. 4

    Good post, Paul.

    I don’t disagree with you. Blatant disregard for business objectives is reckless design, and I’d argue that any user experience designer that approaches a project that way is a poor designer.

    What a user experience designer brings to the table is an ability and focus on negotiating the concerns between the business and user. User experience design isn’t about reckless advocacy for the users, it’s about helping a business to execute on its goals in a way that meshes as seamlessly as possible with the users’ context and goals.

    Per Jared’s comment above, it’s certainly not about a black-and-white tradeoff. If anything, the role of the user experience designer is to *prevent* any kind of tradeoff between business and user, and find an elegant design solution that successfully negotiates both sets of concerns. Any “user experience designer” who doesn’t approach the problem space with this mindset of negotiation isn’t doing their job.

  4. 5

    Its a good argument but I disagree with a couple points:

    1. Its not business objective vs user experience its business objective/user experience vs personal opinions. The business objective should be met through the user experience.

    2. “Return investment should trump user experience,” If you ask clients what do they need they usually respond with what they want, which usually does not meet their business objective.

    3. I disagree with placing so much weight on the web design community about finding the right balance, the right balance requires the right people, marketing, research, account teams that have business and user experience.


  5. 6

    When you are at depth with the business objectives, you’ll be able to decide/choose which tools out of your UX toolbox to use. I you just have to be creative. If the want extra fields give it to them, but i would ask myself the most appropriate time for the user to see or fill it.

    You may ask the user to fill it just before an activity you think they really love. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind to fill one or two fields.

    It’s all about creativity.

  6. 7

    Simon Vreeman

    February 4, 2011 4:53 am

    Great post! And I agree. A good balance between is business objectives and user experience could result in happy customers and a profitable company. Get your business goals very clear for yourself and always keep the customer in mind.

  7. 8

    I tend to fight for UX as far as the client will allow. If it’s very important to them to have that extra field on the form, they will fight for it, and I’ll let them have it in the end. In the situation, I see myself as the advocate on behalf of the user, while the client is of course an advocate on behalf of their business objectives.

    • 9

      I think approaching design in that way actually does more harm than good. I think as the designer YOU should be the one to balance UX and business objectives. And just like designing for UX, designing for business objectives requires a learning curve.A business owner will most likely have no knowledge of how best to design and place a call to action. They’ll have no idea about techniques such as price anchoring, or displaying social proof. There are optimal ways to design a website when thinking of business objectives. As a designer, you owe it to the business owner to have a deep understanding of website design for both UX and business objectives. And the business owner should be able to rely on you to use your understanding of UX to helkp them accomplish their business goals. UX and business objectives CAN live in harmony on a website. Especially if a business is solving some problem or need.

  8. 10

    While agreeing with what you have written (and on the fact you haven’t written for/against this)

    Is it the job of a Web Designer/Developer/UX professional/Ninja Rockstar Dinosaur/Whatever you want to be called these days to question the business objectives of the company? Especially when it comes to those that relate to the medium they are creating for.

    Using your example, should we question why they are collecting that data, at a (chance of) detriment to user happiness. Or should we accept they want this data, and ignore our gut feelings/research/knowledge that this isn’t the right way of doing things?


  9. 11

    Interestingly enough the agency I work for now is unbalanced, but in the opposite way.

    We put so much energy into doing exactly what the client (as sometiems we) think is best business wise, we end up skimping on good user experience and attractive product.

  10. 12

    You know what, I really appreciate this post. My team and I constantly fight for the best user experience, and I’ve been in situations in the past where the business objectives trump the user’s experience; at least from our perspective. But you are correct in saying that it can be a pleasant experience, but have no value. And it’s the business that determines the value while we bring it to life in the most pleasant and delightful way.

    It’s up to us the take those sometimes wacky business goals and translate them into the best experience for the user — even if sometimes there has to be frustration (but really, there’s always some website that annoys us, yet we still use it!).

  11. 13

    This is a great blogpost. But you let yourself become sidetracked.

    The simple truth is, business goals can never be fulfilled if you don’t fulfill user goals. Hence, many UX designers mistakenly think that the ultimate experience is their mission. This is wrong as it tacitly assumes there is only ONE correct solution. In fact, there are MANY different user experiences we can create. For example, if we don’t look at business goals, we might as well just give our products away – wouldn’t it be a better experience for users if we didn’t have to pay for stuff? This, of course, is absurd.

    The trick is to design an experience that both acknowledges user needs and fulfulls visitor goals in a way that directly supports business goals (which usually means turning a profit).

    And to answer the question you pose in your last paragraph, I estimate that our company, FatDUX, typically expends 4-5 times as much effort in gathering research and defining a viable online concept as we do on the creation of personas or developing other deliverables to support our research and creative conclusions. And truth be told, the better your research, the easier/faster it is to develop a concept, personas, etc.

    Our process can be boiled down to: Discover – Design – Deploy.

    If you skip the first step, you will never produce a successful design. Never.

    • 14

      Sayan Mukherjee

      February 11, 2011 3:30 am

      A great insight, I really like the way you represent the process
      Discover – Design – Deploy.

      love that.

  12. 15

    I believe most designers would define putting UX first MEANS “Putting UX first within the confines of the business objectives.” Very few designers would suggest that user experience for user experience’s sake is a viable design OR business objective.

    If it were, websites that put UX first in the way you imply we are in danger of doing would result in a collection of emotionally satisfying interactions that have no business purpose and ultimately achieve nothing.

    At least you acknowledge that to some degree in your section about When Business Objectives and User Experience clash. But even the example you cite frames the issue in overly simplistic terms.

    You are right that I (and many of us, I’m sure) advise our clients not to burden the user by collecting excessive demographic information when filling out forms. The reason we suggest that though isn’t just because it makes for a more pleasurable user experience. It’s because we have years of experience and research that tells us that the cost of users abandoning forms with demographic collection fields is much higher than the value of collecting that information to begin with.

    If you are a good UX designer, you will frame the issue in terms of business risk and opportunity. If the opportunity cost and business risk of getting 50% fewer completed form submissions is out weighed by the value that comes with getting demographic info with the 50% that DO complete the form (potentially along with the harder to measure cost of goodwill, for both users who complete and abandon the form), then by all means, include it.

    Typically though, collecting certain demographic information has far less business value than the form submission itself. And typically these types of requests come from marketers who do not see the big picture in terms of business objectives. They are focused solely on collecting information that has value to them and are blind to the primary objectives of the site.

    It’s not a black and white issue where UX must always trump Business Requirements or vice-versa. It’s about creating the optimal balance of customer value and business value while maintaining a quality UX. If you end up with a design where one of those three falls to zero then your design has failed like a 3-legged stool with only 2 legs.

    As you say in your final line: “Ask yourself whether you got the balance right.”

  13. 16

    Interesting article. I would argue that if the design of the user experience is getting in the way of the business goals, then the UX is not fulfilling its true purpose, no matter how gorgeous and easy-to-use it is. Yes there will have to be compromises on both sides, but the designer should be able to asses the user’s goals and the business’ goals to come up with overlapping design principles that apply to the project.

  14. 17

    Your example could have another solution – what if you would come up with a separate functionality that would motivate the users to send their demographic data by themselves? Thus you can retain great UX and also support business goals.

  15. 18

    Steffan Antonas

    February 4, 2011 6:37 am

    Paul. I think re-wording 1 sentence in the opening paragraph would have gotten your point across much better, which is not to say that I don’t think you’re right on the money. You are.

    “The truth is that business objectives should trump users’ needs every time” should have read more like…

    “When designers blindly let users’ needs trump business objectives we have a problem, because generating a return on investment is more important for a website than keeping users happy.”

    Same point. I think this reads better. No more UX happy designers doing double takes.

    Great article.

  16. 19

    David Fiorito

    February 4, 2011 6:40 am

    Mark Skinner and Eric Reiss have already said much of what I wanted to say, but I would add one more thought – exchange.

    Market forces shape the value of a product and the amount of effort a consumer will exert to acquire it. Buying a car takes time and a lot of money. Consumers will research their choice, spend hours at the dealership working through the paperwork, and suffering through the pitch for all manner of rust protectant and stain proofing. Buying a car is a horrible user experience. But the value and desireability of the product is high, so we put up with it to get what we want.

    Imagine if we had to do the same thing for a Big Mac value meal. The sale of Big Macs would drop to near zero. The value of a Big Mac would not warrant hours of work to acquire.

    Back to digital UX – if the form mentioned above is a simple newsletter subscription then we need to point out to our business stakeholders that we are increasing the effort and cost for the newsletter. We need to challenge them, not because it is a bad user experience to add those fields, but because they are choosing to charge too high a price for the value of their product.

    We have a duty to both the user and the business. Our duty is to make sure the exchange of cognitive capital from the user matches the value of the products and services on offer by the business.

  17. 20

    Way to generate some heat. The title lone provides meaningful insight to pervasive digital business culture. Certainly as an “agency” creative, I get it.

    And I believe it IS a cultural issue at heart. UX – or Experience Design or whatever you want to call it – is not, by my definition, a discipline that should be in competition (real or imagined) with any other business camp. UX is a collaborative approach to designing things that relies on input from all vested parties.

    I also think it’s important to address the persistent clash between “design for marketing ROI” and “service design.” People who believe in the holistic definition of UX will say that these two must be entwined, and must address the arc, however short or long, of a person’s engagement, and where they are within that arc.

    Take your example here:

    “If users ultimately complete the form and the company is able to gather valuable demographic information, then the slight irritation may be worthwhile.”

    How many times have you hidden somebody on FB or un-followed someone one Twitter, or bailed on a website due to “slight” irritation? Well, that probably depends on the depth of your relationship with the person, service, or brand, right? Our “forgiveness” threshold is directly related to the depth/state of our relationships.

    Another comment grabs my attention:

    “I passionately believe that the Web design community is in danger of becoming blind to all else but user experience.”

    Here in agency land, I’ve seen examples of this kind of blind defensiveness plenty of times. But I can only restate that this is an output of an outdated, siloed approach to doing business. Genuine collaboration only happens when clients, directors, and designers stop saying things like “it just has to be this way,” or “but that’s the whole campaign,” and start being blind to all else but user experience – together.

    You needn’t apologize for fanning these flames – this stuff needs to be debated and socialized more. Great post!

  18. 21

    Jamie M Swanson

    February 4, 2011 6:54 am

    Let me start by saying I’m not a web designer, at least not professionally.

    I’m a photographer. My website is my storefront. I follow Smashing Magazine because it gives me ideas about what I want to do with the new site I plan to roll out with our re-brand, once we get around to that. I want to be aware of trends in the industry and have questions ready for selecting my web designer when that day comes (hopefully sooner than later).

    I just want to say that this post is golden. Yes, yes, yes. The only reason I’m willing to invest in new design is to get a return on it many times over what I pay for it. Of course I want it to be an awesome user experience (I am still a creative afterall), but in the end if I’m not booking more weddings because of it, then it would be chalked up as a failure in my mind. In fact, I think I’d be more tempted to hire someone who had a testimony on their site about how profits increased after rolling out the new site than someone who simply had beautiful websites and talked about usability.

    Paul, thanks for saying it like it is. Truly. And I hope designers take note.

  19. 22

    Wonderful post! As a developer in an IT department that doesn’t do that much development I can attest to trying to find the right balance. It’s hard as we are constantly trying get departments to use us instead of paying for outside firms and sometimes we spend too much time making something look good instead of getting it to work the way the user asked.

  20. 23

    Good post. I live by a few points of wisdom:

    1) less is more; more or less.
    2) UI Design: getting people to ‘do’ things online; UX Design: getting people to do it more than once AND tell their friends.


  21. 24

    Generally speaking, I agree with the post, UX designers need to understand what the business needs and environment within which they are working. In fact, UX designers need to gain a deep insight into all the aspects of the business that can ultimately impact the experience. If you craft a great experience, but it can’t be maintained, runs too slow, or isn’t relevant, what good is it? How many of you have gone back to a site you designed and cringed.

    I think it’s also important to consider technology as an equal partner to business and user experience. This is especially true when designing within a large enterprise. What does the business need, what does the user want to do, and what is the best approach to achieve the aforementioned goals in a reasonable timeframe. How buildable is it?

    While I believe it’s true that UX designers can lose their way, so too can the business. When a business focuses too heavily on the bottom line, often they forget that they exist to provide value to customers. When a business is healthy and well managed, its goals should not be too different than those of the UX designer. Provide value to your customers and users.

  22. 25

    Pete Williams

    February 4, 2011 7:42 am

    There does of course need to be a balance, but in order to achieve that balance the UX designer needs to be disproportionately acting on the user’s behalf to counter-balance the fact that the client will usually be acting 100% in the business’ favour.

  23. 26

    Eighty percent of first-time projects fail and a higher percentage of remaining services do not last two years without serious help or the benefit of a fad.

    Your web-site had better attract and satisfy customers. This is a separate function that should be managed competitively and if in lock-step with bean-counting everything might just go down the drain.

    If you don’t need a web site then you don’t need this article – this includes not needing a web-site in the near-future.

    Whether you use 6-sigma, guts or other stochastic analysis Everyone seems to miss out on real short-term and long-term angle-J which is the unaccounted-for lossy-essentials like life-blood or oil in a car that determine if your service will remain viable.

    Short-sighted experiments in business evolution are the norm and it seems to serve other interests when businesses fail in this modern profitable-to-the-end write-off infrastructure demolition business model.

  24. 27

    Didn’t really seem to go anywhere this article.

    The purpose of a ‘user experience designer’ is to take business objectives and ensure that they work for both parties, it is virtually the definition of the role. In such, the entire argument is moo.

    • 28


    • 29

      *should* be moot. Let’s face it, how many times does it happen that experts in a creative field that is essentially pragmatic, be that print, digital or UX design, come to believe that they know better than the client in all respects? That their interpretation of the needs of the user/muse/aesthetic balance, supersedes both the long term sector knowledge of the client and their direct business goals? A site should be designed for a purpose, it is inescapable that the purpose is defined by the client and intended to generate specific activity from the users. At the point at which you are arguing against those goals being achieved rather than for better ways of achieving them you have crossed the line. This is not as rare as we might hope and it’s no bad thing to be reminded from time to time.

      • 30

        There are at least two separate maturity models to consider – how well the customer rationally understands their needs and how well the UX designer can meet the customer’s expectation. I cannot count how many times I have seen stardust in the eye’s and specs approved by both parties. Btw there is sometimes a 3rd party that gets a cut up front whether you can deliver or not and most successful deals come from either a great maturity match or a great flexibility match. Otherwise the law firms, banks & board get their cuts instead as loss, mitigation, IP transfer and product customer base.

  25. 31

    Generally agree. Your example is interesting, though – the one about asking for demographic information in a contact/lead form. I bet that 99% of companies that ask for this sort of demographic information, do not do anything with it. That is my issue. Each form field must be actionable. I’m all for asking questions that will provide value to the company, even if they do impact the user’s experience. But this example in particular, is one that to me represents the sort of stuff companies do because it “sounds good” – and then they don’t use the data.

    • 32

      A good point, its important to explore with the client “why” they need this field or information so that you can create an experience that gets them the metrics or information they need to drive a business goal. Sometimes simply by exploring it with a client you are leading a horse to water and they will question if the “new feature request” is necessary or something they just “saw somewhere and thought it would be neat” but didn’t put additional thought into it.

      I don’t agree with your statistics of the need for this sort of request though. Its only my experience, but I work with a large family company that has vacation destinations, tv channels, entertainment studios, sports networks, book publishers and a ton of cartoon and comic characters (hehe) in markets all over the world. This exact type of information drives 99% (wink) of the business decisions that are made by the executive leadership. Where and how we use art, which brands and languages are present on the websites and how our approach to the interface and products differ in each market. Having this information is just as crucial to us too, so we can better understand the business and allow us to talk the same language as the leadership and arrive at a product that satisfies their business goals to the shareholders. There is still and expectation for us to bring our expertise to what that looks like, what information is needed and what the experience is like to continue to keep the users there, etc … but this helps us relate to their needs and make a profit in each market.

  26. 33

    When it comes to subjective areas of study like design, any advice that says “always” is usually something I throw out. Business needs can often make a terrible user experience, and that in the end harms the business.

  27. 34

    Luis Felipe Fernandes

    February 4, 2011 10:12 am

    We (designers) have to understand that we are not User Experience designers, but “Behavior Designers”.
    The experience is just the way we do to achieve a bullet.
    Basically, we creat an experience to persuade user to click “BUY”.
    Experience is the way, not the goal.

    • 35

      Rubbish. That’s the opposite of good user design. A good interface is something that anticipates every user action. You’re not designing a users’ behavior you’re counting on the users’ behavior to drive the design. Then you combine that with the (business) needs of the organization, which may have nothing to do with trying to sell you something.

  28. 36

    Nice topic. I agree with Pete Williams in that the web/interaction/ux designer is the primary advocate for the user/customer experience so there should be some bias in that regard, if only to play devil’s advocate and push the client to argue for those business goals.

    Many times this is a long-term vs. short-term situation. Are the stakeholders mortgaging the company’s growth potential against quick returns? Certainly it is not the place for the designer to make such a call, but we can bring up the questions to shine a light on the potential risk and offer alternative solutions.

    We are in a position to frame the discussion, get the business representatives involved in the design process and push them to prioritize those business goals. Facilitate the understanding of the trade-offs involved so stakeholders can make informed decisions and let them strike the balance between UX and ROI.

  29. 37

    Ryan Nalepinski

    February 4, 2011 10:48 am

    I completely agree with your perspective. At the end of the day client’s pay our bills. Fight the good fight but ask yourself, “Is this the hill I want to die on?” Great stuff.

  30. 38

    UX is the intersection of business goals with user goals. Anything skewed to far to one direction is missing the point.

  31. 39

    I dunno, I think the issue is more about digging deep into what the core business goals are and questioning what my clients are really trying to accomplish. Once you have that, then, you create a great user experience to achieve those goals.

    Clients will often jump right to an implied solution when they discuss what their needs are, which can steer a design in the wrong direction. For example, a client may say: “I need our signup form to capture the job titles, company names, phone numbers and locations of every member that signs up”. When what they really “need” is to learn more about their members. But, you can’t learn more about members without converting users/visitors into members first.

    Most clients don’t know anything about things like A/B testing, creating a frictionless signup process, conversion rates or ways that they can capture more info about members after they’ve signed up. That’s because it’s my job to know all that – not theirs.

    If you can prove that you can achieve a far greater conversion rate by implementing a signup form with 3 fields instead of 8, your client (and users) will be happy. If you can prove that you can capture more info about a member once they’ve become a member, your client will think you’re a rock star.

  32. 42

    Totally agree. Main goal is conversion.

  33. 43

    Michael McWatters

    February 4, 2011 12:35 pm

    It’s as though, to create a dramatic article, you’ve decided to distinguish between user experience and business objectives, as though they are separate and distinct properties. In stating it this way, you’ve relegated UX to something akin to aesthetics, something subjective that we ‘UX professionals’ like because we’re ‘evangelists,’ which must give way to business objectives when there is a conflict.

    In fact, the relationship is far more fluid and complex. It’s not either or. And the business of UX is, quite simply, to create the best business returns while maintaing the best experience possible. Anyone who tells you otherwise is not a UX professional.

  34. 44

    You’re damn right! But for God’s sake, don’t tell anybody!

  35. 45

    I have always thought that the job of the designer is to strike the right balance between business objectives and user experience, and to try to align those needs. That being said, I do disagree that the designer should ultimately come down on the side of business needs and ROI if a choice absolutely must be made. I can think of one very popular and large enterprise right now that consistently puts its own business objectives ahead of the user experience, particularly with regard to privacy. The result could very well be a mass abandonment of the site if and when users find a real alternative.

    I can make the small concessions of a demographic field here or legal link there. The small irritation is a necessary evil at times. But I’ve worked in many environments where well-intentioned executives, management and marketers presume too much tolerance (or don’t care the level of tolerance) on the part of the end user or consumer. I’ve watched entire business models and product launches fail as a consequence. If an alignment can’t be found, it usually means the effort is in trouble (dare I say doomed) from the start.

  36. 46

    adrian fallas

    February 4, 2011 1:55 pm

    I totally agree with this article and with the author… actually when I was reading I was thinking… this is soo right…

    congrats for such wonderful piece…

  37. 47

    Wait, I don’t understand this post and don’t really understand why it was written (and Paul please help me out if I’m off here).

    Isn’t the entire purpose of UX to make it easier for customers to achieve your business goals?

    Anytime the UX isn’t achieving a business goal then it’s not really UX is it?

    If you had to justify to a business owner why UX is important isn’t the first thing you’d point to is how it helps achieve business goals?

    I’m confused, do we have different definitions of what UX is?

    • 48

      Well put; I was thinking the same thing. Design that doesn’t support business goals *isn’t* user experience design — it’s just visual design. Frame it, hang it on a wall… but don’t confuse it with UX design.

      I can see one thought behind the article here — and it’s one that I tell my teams all the time. Pragmatism is a cornerstone of good user experience design. UX designers need to understand that business goals (and, honestly, logistical constraints) can force compromises and adjustments to a project’s visual and interaction design. Good designers know how to roll with the punches, and still deliver a quality experience.

  38. 49

    Great topic—one that definitely has many layers to it.
    In short, I think good UX should be the catalyst to achieving business objectives on a site by driving users to take the desired action in the quickest most intuitive route possible. Business objectives are goals and UX is the strategy to achieving them.

    Great post! Thanks!

  39. 50

    usability of the website is a user experience, seeing the CTA button and making the guest click is a user experience :P I guess primary aim is to give the users a great user experience (content, design, usability) to achieve the business objective. ;)

  40. 51

    Michael Locke

    February 4, 2011 3:38 pm

    “The truth is that business objectives should trump users’ needs every time. “…

    I know I’m taking this line out of context and I know what you’re saying. But I think MySpace is a good example of a company that took this approach. I think taking this approach does bring short term success until someone comes along with identical features/services but with a better experience. Then party is over. Great discussion. I was actually going to write a post about this titled “Did Poor User Experience Lead to the Failure of Myspace?”. Not sure what the answer is, but worth a discussion.

    • 52

      i might say that TOO MUCH user experience led to the fall of myspace. i feel like they were giving the user too much freedom to do everything they wanted, and that’s what ruined it. sure, there’s an overabundance of branding and adverts now, but i was put off myspace before all the advertising came about. the reason i left is because it didn’t offer a -consistent- user experience, because of the decision they made to allow people to do anything they want. their strategy to please/bend over backwards for the customer at every turn, in order to create loyalty to withstand the oncoming advertising onslaught, was their real killer. in my opinion :)

      • 53

        Michael Locke

        February 6, 2011 9:59 pm

        I agree with you, but I would argue that allowing users to design their “space” the way the wanted without any restrictions is actually a “Business Objective” and not too much user experience. It was a business requirement that each user will have the ability to create their own “space”. This is what lead to MySpace’s success, but eventually lead to their downfall (I think we both agree to that). But having too much user experience to me would be controlling the user experience so that it never fails or falls apart for any user, i.e. Facebook. But I have issues with Faecbook as well, but that’s for another discussion. ;)

  41. 54

    I know some amazing interaction designers and they do their work great, but I have a some argument from time to time with them about their thoughts. As myself I weight every decision in yin & yang,. Something most people lack in doing so. For every amazing sollution or decision there’s a downfall on the other side. So every decision you make in the design and /or interaction should be carfully thought of before even thinking about implementing it. In short everything comes back to the good old yin & yang.

  42. 55

    Well said Paul.You article has provoked me to sit and plan again.
    Recently, I declined a project because of the tell-tale signs of a “client-from-hell “.
    However, now I look back and feel that , it was not the only reason.
    This client wanted to re-do his website with the aim of attracting potential partners/ franchise-owners , so I sat down and took my time to totally understand the business and see what could really be sold. The more I learned , the more I felt that the business Idea was doomed. If it had not performed in 18 yrs , it wasn’t going to now, with the same legs !
    I went home and several days later called to turn down the project.
    Only now I realise that I was also focused on business side of the website !

  43. 56


    February 4, 2011 7:49 pm

    #1 thing that the “supplier” side should have in mind before setting out designing/creating a website is the question: WHAT are we providing and then, WHO are our customers, and the third question is, are we presenting it in a way that our customers would appreciate it (the HOW) question. The fourth is, of course to measure how we are doing it.

  44. 57

    Achieving both being the ultimate goal, I think you nailed it when talking about balance. Instead of spending hours working the latest jQuery magic trick into a project, I believe web designers (myself included) should take more interest in understanding client necessities and goals — which organically tends to lead to a better user-experience.

  45. 58

    The goal of design is to synthesize conflicting interests and align differing goals.

    Reaching a balance of conflicting interests is not enough. It will leave people with dissatisfying compromises.

    If business goals must trump a customer’s experience, I think that means a design simply needs work. Expressing the goals as 100% overlapping and integrated seems an unattainable nirvana state for most designs, however I am sure each designer can find ways to get closer.

    From Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching:
    A process as described is not the process as it exists;
    The terms used to describe it are not the things they describe.
    That which evades description is the wholeness of the system;
    The act of description is merely a listing of its parts.
    Without intentionality, you can experience the whole system;
    With intentionality, you can comprehend its effects.
    These two approach the same reality in different ways,
    And the result appears confusing;
    But accepting the apparent confusion
    Gives access to the whole system.

  46. 59

    Aditya Gujaran

    February 4, 2011 11:52 pm

    Firstly, great article. I love that you kept it short and to the point (unlike some comments). Big ups !

    I believe that ux and business objectives do go hand in hand. The purpose of good ux is to ultimately turn a profit.

    But I don’t agree that they will ever clash. If the ux design does not inherently satisfy the business objectives, then you need a new design(er)! Its not about balancing it out. Its about accommodating both without compromise.

  47. 60

    user experience design is the method by which we accomplish business objectives…. i’m a little confused what you are trying to argue here. one is a goal, the other is a method. they are not in competition.

  48. 62

    Jeroen van der Putten

    February 5, 2011 11:15 am

    I agree with your point of view; We should be servicing our clients, not solely the users of the site. One thing to note: Commercial requirements, as well as technical requirements, feed into the briefing which forms the base for the design solution. For this reason commercial requirements (or business objectives) can never stand opposite the user experience – Or we are not doing our job. Thanks for the post!

  49. 63

    Another Great article. I enjoyed it. Thanks!

  50. 64

    Of course business is #1! ROI is #1.
    I had the same argument with my web designer when I integrated and requested phone numbers on the forms. He said, we will get less people registration. I said, “perfect”! I have less emails and more qualified prospects to buy my products. Now my web designer and I are on the same page because there is also a process called “qualification”. The hardest part that I find with designers is the lack of willingness to understand who is the other side, what motivates him/her and what is the over all goal is all about. It’s hard to learn to learn his customer’s persona in each business, but UX has to be done exactly according to that.

    Maybe this is just a specific example to me, but I am sure people could combine a process where a more qualified traffic would be registering. Most businesses are not “facebook” where only sheers traffic generates a business model for ads.

  51. 65

    I’m always amazed at how few clients understand this. The prevailing notion I seem to encounter is: “Our website is really [ bad / dated / ugly ]; we need to change that.” Not because of business goals, not because of UX, but just because they’ve postponed it long enough and are really starting to feel guilty.

    And then there is the lack of understanding that UX is crucial to achieving those goals; instead there is a fear that “if it’s not on the homepage, it’s not being legitimately addressed.” Or worse yet, “who cares about the users; this works for me.”

    All of which make for some frustrating bumps in the road, but also make it much easier to exceed a client’s expectations. It’s a great time to be a web designer! :)

  52. 66

    Brilliant post. I couldn’t agree more about needing to take business goals into account. Most of potentials clients are surprised when I help them work out a cost per customer and apply it to their new project. Or when I ask them who their customer is, what their business is about, the business goals for the site.

    I think the major problem here is most designers think they will be noticed and get work based on their design skills and flashy websites. If they treated their own promotion better and were more business like they would understand how to help cliens better. I am sick of seeing every designer retweet a post on the top ten ways to create a modal window or whatever. Then they have a blog all about design tutorials. Are they providing any content for clients. NO. Most never have any goals or planning done and just wings it. No wonder so many people think web design is just about learning dreamweaver.

    The fact that you had to worry about peoples reaction in the article and needed them to hear you out is a sign of how bad this problem is. We are in business and need to start acting like it and provide functional sites not just nice looking ones. They can be the best promotional tool ever or just money wasted but most web designers don’t care once they’re paid. My job is to help grow business by getting them noticed. Web design is just the tool I use to fulfil this goal.

  53. 67

    Business goals are the user experience. If you haven’t based your user experience on behavior that is directly linked to business goals then you haven’t provided value to the business or the user. What you’re saying is that you can have a good user experience without supporting business objectives and that just isn’t the case. The relationship would have no value and that is not good UX. Usability shouldn’t be confused with UX.

  54. 68

    Satish Chathanath

    February 6, 2011 4:55 am

    It is EX more than UX. It is ‘Effortless Experience’ that makes a visitor come back, do more business and hence better ROI. I think both the designer and the site owner should have this as the primary objective. If an additional field or deletion of the same can achieve enchanced EX, it is bang on.

  55. 69

    Satish Chathanath

    February 6, 2011 4:59 am

    Good inference.

  56. 70

    I don’t think your example regarding web forms is the best one. There are research studies that show the larger (longer) and unclearer a web form is the lower the number of people actually getting past it.

    When designing web forms you must take a lot information into account and test which options work best: top / left / right labels, removing non mandatory fields and so on, and go with the one design that has the best conversion rates, even if it means the client will not know all the details about the people who have completed the form.

  57. 71

    Donald E Giannatti

    February 6, 2011 7:36 am

    When we do a brief for a client, the Business Objectives always come first. It seems that it is our mission/challenge/burden to build a UE that embraces the objectives and provides the means for them to be successful.

    We find it a bigger challenge to actually find out what the business objectives are from many a client. There are still too many who simply want a website so they can get rich really fast, or to simply have a website cause, you know… everyone else has one.

    When the business objectives are clear, it is usually far easier to craft a user experience that makes sense. When they are muddled, or non-existent, the UE begins to become more important as it has at least some structure and can be understood.

    Nature (as well as designers) abhors a vacuum.

  58. 72

    When I go to my favorite cafe in the morning, I always leave happy and satisfied. The coffee is good, but not great. And I use this example in meetings with business all the time. The product (or service) certainly has to be good and give the customer what they want, but its the interaction that makes it. You cant beat good/friendly customer service!

    On the web, that friendly “good morning” and closing “have a great day” when I leave with my coffee is essentially the parts I believe web designers have to take responsibility for. We should not be telling business – and extending the cafe metaphor – that they should buy better beans, use branded cups, offer super jumbo kicker sized coffee’s or the like. Business will need to determine these things. Our job is to say we’ll take this good (but not great) coffee and add the customer service (user experience) to help fulfill your goal (of increasing sales/product awareness/exposure/whatever). On the web, this means things like adopting design patterns and conventions, accessibility and applying the right ‘feel’.

    I appreciate that we see the best way for business to run their operations and spend their dollars. But we are not change agents and its not our job to tell them how they should do things. What we should do is say we’ll work with you to ensure you website is optimised to best achieve your goal(s).

    Essentially, I don’t see it as Business Objective vs User Experience. If business have a poor business goal/plan, then no amount of UX will really change that. So we have to trust that the business objective is sound. And if so, then coupled with UX you’ll likely have a successful end solution.

  59. 73

    beautiful post!

  60. 74

    Business goals should always take into account user experience. I my opinion both, user experience and ROI are inseparable and should define the way we design online products. Focusing more on the motives and needs of customers (RIO) will deliver good UX.

  61. 75

    I know what you’re trying to say but I disagree with this statement entirely:

    “business objectives should trump users’ needs every time.”

    THE USERS NEEDS ARE THE BUSINESS OBJECTIVE… maybe that should trump whether or not to use that jQuery slideshow and focus on creating an interactive application that will assess needs based on user decisions and query the results using Ajax or something on the fly.

  62. 76

    I agree with you Paul. Business needs have to be paramount. Anything that supports those goals such as user experience are just steps on the path to a successful project that meets the business objectives.

    p.s. Are the Boag World podcasts ever coming back?

  63. 77

    I think if you have a good relationship with a client the UX v Clients needs can usually by gaped. Has designers isn’t it the reason why we are employed in the first instance to design for clients and users to make both happy, I think that’s what makes good designers vs bad designers who get immersed and stuck in current design dogma and design trends.

    Anyways I find the greatest handicap are usually SEO marketing companies, Especially those who hog the all the analytical data. Their main aim is getting uses to the website, some can be too much influence over a client that it destroys there UX and conversion rates. That as an analogy – you can have a great advertising to a theme park only to find that going there is not a lot of rides/attractions. Google some SEO companies on their ideas of UX and convertion its scary stuff, and some big companies are taking these snake oil companies seriously – don’t Let SEO companies control the analytical tracking data on your website!!!!!

  64. 78

    It is incumbent upon web designers to be the torch bearers for the web of the future? The future of the web really is about synergy. A meeting of the minds, a meeting of opinions, thoughts, and intentions. But, perhaps more than anything else it is a meeting of businesses with their customers/clients.

    Paul your article articulated very nicely that moderation in all things is healthy and productive. The synergy of user experience with business objectives is what makes a good website great.

    Thanks for carrying the torch today!

    • 79

      So many great projects and great people get flushed down the toilet bucking the system. Corporations try to catch up to where the industry was. They spend 2-3 years trying to get caught up to speed that by the time they get they they’ve wasted manhours and lost valuable employees who could have shaped the future of what the web could become. With developers, designers, businessmen, and visionaries GOALS of the user can be assessed and new applications can be contrived that side step needs assessments by allowing users to make decisions within applications that retrieve results they didn’t even know were out there.

      For instant, you goto and you want to find a particular shoe/boot but you don’t know the millions that are out there. So you select your size, the purpose of the shoe, how much you are willing to spend, and the type of outfit you will be wearing and a bunch of results are returned… You can still access the inventory through normal gateways but intuitive interfaces are the way to expose users to more than just their brand and facilitate purchases of THAT! shoe.

      What the fuck do I know about though. I just push pixels in my day job. No way can a designer ever learn AS3/JavaScript/serverside scripting… *yawn* though someone created it. It’s how can we use everything we have before us more efficiently. How many people are in your company who just sit and make jokes and gather a paycheck and never speak up? Imagine replacing those people with quality employees who are passionate about what they do? The people who treat their passion as more than a paycheck. People who want to serve others and not just play around all day. There’s problems, and there’s solutions.

  65. 80

    Personally, I have a very simple and pragmatic solution to this problem:

    Webstandards and usability first, then SEO / business objectives. Period.

    If they’re not in conflict, fine. But I’m not going to wrap every other link on the page in an h1/2 tag, or cram stuff above the “fold” in order to achieve a higher Google ranking / competitive advantages.

    At the end of the day, my work speaks for me and the decisions I make as a designer, not as a businessman.

    As others have pointed out here, if I already have a solid product or offer a good service, then the two really shouldn’t be in conflict.

  66. 81

    I am not someone generally to comment on these posts, but I believe you have a good point. Now, only if I could find the right balance I would be golden.

  67. 82

    Does this even need to be said, has design become so separated from what it began as that we need to start stating the obvious. If you have read any design history this topic is always discussed, and the conclusion is always the same. There needs to be a balance between aesthetics(in this case user experience) and what you are actually designing for(the product). And the most successful work is when the singularity is reached between both facets. There that’s all that needs to be said.

    If you don’t understand what you are designing for you aren’t a “good designer”.

    Maybe we need to stop twiddling our fingers and actually read about graphic design!

  68. 83

    There’s some biased self-professed knowitallness here. I like this site (not the acronym freaks) but there’s a lot I disagree with. I tend to read between the lines and let my mind assemble what they should have meant. Sort of like my approach to web design and development. No reason to reinvent the wheel… just try and make improvements on a good concept.

  69. 84

    This was a good article. I work as a UI/UX designer for a medical software company, so obviously UX is important to me. But the one thing I tell people all the time is that function comes before form, always. If you have a website that allows your client to add 2+2, then it should add up to 4 every time. If not, no matter how well laid out and how sexy the website is, it will be completely useless.

    In our situation, we are presenting medical data, and that data needs to be accurate, fast, and easy to find (more or less in that order). Having it look nice and make sense at the same time is what allows us to sell the application more quickly or move past our competition.

  70. 85

    Russell Uresti

    February 8, 2011 7:32 am

    I find this post to be a little strange, specifically because the example provided doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Things we assume: business objective is to increase conversions; filling out the form completes a conversion; shorter forms lead to increased conversions.

    Our conflict: The client wants to add more fields to collect demographic data on the user.

    The way the client wants to collect demographic information is in direct conflict with the goal of increasing conversions. The way to progress from here is to have the client prioritize the objectives: which is more important, increasing conversions or collecting demographic data?

    If the answer is collecting demographic data, then you add those items to the form. If the answer is increasing conversion, you leave them out. However, since collecting demographic data is still a business objective, you find an alternate solution — such as sending the user a follow-up email after they fill out the form (get the conversion), or give them a pop-up after they finish submitting the form.

    This method would actually probably serve both business objectives better than just adding the fields to the form. If you add them upfront, a user could become dissatisfied that you’re asking them personal questions that are really irrelevant to what they’re trying to do, which would cause them to not fill out the form at all. If you wait until after the conversion happens, you’ll have a slightly happier user (who was pleased with the ease of completing the conversion process) and thus be more likely to give you that extra bit of information you’re asking for.

    I may be focusing on the example too much, but, ultimately, the point I’m trying to make is that there is often a better solution, and you should take the time to accurately assess what the client is trying to accomplish.

  71. 86

    Oh look –

    Another Smashing article with a sensational headline / premise that goes on to say something completely pedestrian.

    Business objectives and user experience are usually highly correlated. Anyone with any business sense can identify when they’re not. People who are worried about one or two fields on a form (as in the example) need to go get a hobby.

    • 87

      The attention to detail (as in the example) is what separates a “pedestrian” designer from a true designer. If every facet of a UI is not thoughtfully refined it remains a candidate for redesign by someone with enough passion to catch these often overlooked details. If not relentlessly improving, what else should a committed designer be doing?

  72. 88

    Austin Houser

    February 8, 2011 2:51 pm

    I cannot tell you how many times I have come across a client who wants a particular design/development element changed to fit what they want, rather than what the user wants.
    More often than not these changes kill the intended user experience. This can be extremely frustrating. I do my best to talk the client out of any unnecessary changes by providing alternate solutions to the problem.

  73. 89

    Oliver Drescher

    February 9, 2011 2:51 am

    Taking your example of collecting data in a form, the two only clash, if the business goal has no motivation, or even worse, is not measurable. I very often have experienced a situation in which clients have no analytics in place to use collected data after and therefore don’t have a reason to collect. Means, when there is no reason for collecting, there is no reason to ask. So what for weakening the user experience?
    The other situation is, that if there is a comprehensible reason for collecting a huge amount of data, the Information Architect’s task is to create a form that doesn’t look “huge”, e.g. by structuring the form in convenient chapters or by splitting the form into a wizard or whatever to fulfil the approach of a positive user experience.
    But also very often clients don’t want to pay the additional effort for conception and creation, which means they don’t see the benefit in creating an “expensive” user experience for a “form”.
    Currently clients and UX/UI/IA people are not arguing on the same level. The weight of business goals is much heavier than the weight of user experience issues. But the only goal UX/UI/IA has, is to increase user experience within the frame of given business goals. If there would be more understanding in this issue from client side, there would be no clash.

  74. 90

    There are two main standpoints from which most people determine whether a website design is
    “good” or “bad.” There’s a strict usability angle, which focuses on functionality, the effective
    presentation of information, and efficiency. Then there’s the purely aesthetic perspective, which
    is all about the artistic value and visual appeal of the design. Some people become caught up in
    the aesthetics and graphics, and forget about the user, while some usability gurus get lost in their
    user testing and forget about visual appeal. In order to reach people and retain their interest, it’s
    essential to maximize both.
    The most important point to keep in mind is that design is about communication. If you create a
    website that works and presents information well, but looks ugly or fails to fit with the client’s
    brand, no one will want to use it. Similarly, if you make a beautiful website that is hard to use or
    inaccessible, people will leave.

  75. 91

    In my opinion, a clear brief should avoid this problem. What is the client business goal ? How a website can help the client to reach his goal ? From there we determinate what we want the users to do. And then we can think about the style, the design we should adopt, the story we should develop to create a great experience. When it is time to design, the designers should only think : how can I make this function attractive, how can I design it.

  76. 92

    This is an important topic and important article. Well said. Anyone doubting the point should look at their iPhone and ask, “Where’s the HDMI port?”

  77. 93

    Interesting article. I understand where you are coming from, however I disagree with the fundamental principle of companies versus the user.

    A UXD’er should always meet user needs, not business needs. A company is at work for a user because they are fulfilling the wants of the user. Thats why they can make money out of it and exist in the first place. Companies exist because humans and their goals/needs exist. Users dont buy products or use services to fulfill business goals. They fulfill their own needs. So a company always has to set its goals on the base of user needs and see how they can turn those needs into profit for themselves. What;s good for the user is good for the company.

    The example of the demographics data in the article is a good example of how it simply just doesn’t work. Like others already pointed out in one way or another, companies collect data just because they think they can or because they think they need that data—most of it will never be used anyways. No I won’t give you my date of birth when I want to buy a book or a cd. You would never ask me if it where in a real store, why would you do online? And besides, there is no way you would ever need that so I won’t give it, unless you convince me that there actually is a use for it and there is something in it for me personally to give away my date of birth.
    It’s simple and proven, the shorter the form and the more relevant the asked data, the bigger the chance that users stay.

    Besides, what’s not completely understood is what an experience actually is. It’s not just the website of a company or the packaging of the product, it’s also the way the product is designed it self, the way the company communicates and interacts with their customers, the way the product is sold and much, much more. Its the feeling humans get, based on their observations and actions as a response on these observations what makes an experience.
    It’s something that needs to be understood because it means that there can be no such thing as “no experience”. Products, companies or services cannot have “no experience”. There can only be desirable and non-desirable experiences for a product, company and/or service.

    UXD’ers try to achieve the most desirable experience for the thing they create, in order to fulfill users needs and therefor business needs. Humans have goals, they can achieve those goals by actions, these actions might involve the use of tools, the way the action is carried out and perceived as opposed to the achievement of the goal is the experience.

  78. 94

    Can’t say that I completely agree with this article.

    Generating revenue is crucial for any business. However, from web designer point of view, it is our job to ensure the best user experience is delivered to the users – great user experience and great content retains existing users and attract new users, hence, more impressions and usage of the site – therefore generating more inventory. It is then up to the marketing, sales guys to monetize and turn this inventory into dollars.

  79. 95

    I agree with many of the comments here. User experience should support, not hinder business objectives.

    “Well, users like free money. We should give them free money”

    That sounds like an extreme quote, but that is essentially what you are doing if you ignore business needs and put ONLY user needs first.

    Thanks Paul for your great insights

  80. 96

    Thanks for sharing this post.It carries great collections of business objectives vs user experience.

  81. 97

    Great post! I believe is good to have a balance between business objectives and user experience.

  82. 98

    I completely agree with you. What good is a website that “works great” but doesn’t generate revenue for the client? Getting to know where your client is coming from and understanding their business revenue ideas is ‘key’ to success (both designer & client)!

  83. 99

    There’s something here I’m not getting.

    Do so many people let other objectives come in front of business objectives that it warrants an article about it? By none other than Paul Boag.

    I don’t think your stipulation about web designers putting UX ahead the business (the website!) objectives is true. Or maybe I’m wrong. I see some comments that concerns.

  84. 100

    Good post!
    I think excellent user experience make it easer to fulfill business objectives, and there are no absolutelyantagonistic relations betweet them.

  85. 101

    A life-sapping, soul-crushing horrible post! The enthusiastic reception by your readers just makes it worse.

    Now that my soul has been crushed, I have little energy left to explain why you are an idiot.

    Let me briefly state that measurement is very difficult. When people announce that users are only irritated “a little bit”, they probably have no quantitative idea of what “a little bit” is. The argument is really “I am in charge so, even if there is no good reason to do it my way, do it my way.” This would be fine if you would just admit that this is the point of your post. Just say “I want you to obey your boss. The boss has no idea what effect irritating the customer a little will be and no idea how much a little is, but the boss is the boss.” This way, you can shorten the post and remove some of the complete nonsense. The only problem will be that it will be more obvious that there is little or nothing of value in your post. Why should Smashing exist if all it can do is to remind us that the boss is in charge? Could you please at least feel a little bit guilty for using your fame to justify spouting complete dreck?

  86. 102

    good article, though I am really surprised that an article is still needed.
    Actually the article discusses a NON-QUESTION, I think. It is like asking “What do you like best: ‘red’ or ‘apples’?”

    Business requirements are the driver, and UE, TECH, DESIGN the enablers to make that happen.

    Now, I do get your example with the form fields, but here the simple answer is: if the client wants fields UE can proof to be too many the requirement would work counter-objective and therefore has to be retired on business-grounds. Problem solved.

    But I think there is something far more interesting in the article. Let me ramble on a little bit:

    The problem we have, and this is where the question stems from is that most people don’t get the difference between

    – business objective (what do you want to achieve)
    – business requirement (what are the expectations towards your solution)
    – solution

    I think actually, when the chap talks about BRs he means BOs.
    Because with BRs it gets a little bit tricky. Not so much in traditional IT, but very much in digital: Keep in mind that requirements should ideally be solution netural. or should they? well, here we have the problem: if I want to display images, that is a requirement (well, actually it is an expectation, it becomes a requirement when we all agree on it, but that’s beside the point).

    Now, if I want these images to show in the upper right hand corner, what is this? Defining the solution or a requirement? Say legal said I had to show it in the upper right hand corner…
    See what I mean?

    So normally the problem described shouldn’t apply, as requirements are the basis towards which UE has to fulfill. However, when what we are told to be requirements are actually opinion or taste or wish towards solution we get into this confusing situation…

  87. 103

    I totally agree with this article

  88. 104


    February 14, 2011 12:30 pm

    Good stuff! Ultimately – Think before you design. I like it!

    It’s always good to second question your goals.


  89. 106

    Well you definitely have generated some response! Thanks for the article.

    • 107

      indeed waldo, this has certainly generated a response and what an incredible set of comments

  90. 108

    Sorry Paul but this is nonsense. Any VC (the guy with the money on the line) will tell you, build a service that people love, get a large, loyal and enthusiastic user base and the money will take care of itself. Monetisation comes last, value to the user comes first. That’s what funding is for. Some examples? Hmm let me think: Facebook, Twitter, Google…

  91. 109

    Eleanor Holmes

    February 16, 2011 6:11 am

    Does the question arise because you are expecting too much of one person?

    At Bunnyfoot we work in 3 distinct sections: we spend time with the business to understand their objectives, then we spend time with the customers understanding the experience of achieving those objectives, then we then work with the design team to translate the goals and feedback into a basis for the design.

    A recent client told me that having independent evidence behind design took the tension away between the design and management teams. So I guess it’s a case of not stressing so much about being brilliant at everything, because teamwork can actually be the best way forward.

  92. 110

    In all fairness, the only example you give to build your case is extra fields in a sign-up form, which I can only assume is pinnacle of the clash, otherwise you would have chosen a better example. But this might not even affect the user experience, given that the sign-up form comes at the right time and does not discourage user from signing up, e.g. Pizza Hut iPhone app is a great example here. It most circumstance one is able to work-around business requirements by incorporating them into the design, to more or less quote Don Norman; it is when user interface gets complicated (which primarily is the designer’s fault) the user is at a loss, but if it is complex (i.e. many business requirement) it can be simplified. This way, the two are not mutually exclusive but can be coexist quite peacefully. In other words, you are over complicating it..

  93. 111

    Very good post!

  94. 112

    Great article! I think you are spot on, and wouldn’t apologize for that. In this industry of “cool” it’s easy to lose sight of the fact the some websites are meant to generate revenue and some are not. It’s not to say that one is more valid than the other. I’m just saying that there needs to be a compromise/respect for both, and in some cases you need leave your ego at home. It’s a balancing act between sales/business and design/interaction stimulus. I appreciate your perspective, and definitely agree. The web medium is all grows up now and its a different world from the late 1990’s


  95. 113

    I think the last paragraph sums up the solution quite nicely:

    “how much time did you spend creating personas, testing usability and generally improving the user experience? How does that compare with the amount of time you spent learning about the client’s business objectives and creating great calls to action?”

    I would say that as the latter comes directly from the client, it shoudl be easier to do than understanding the user, who, in online business is a somewhat elusive beast as users have so little contact with the site that isn’t anonymous. (is nonymous a word?)

  96. 114

    Charlie Nielsen

    February 19, 2011 10:22 am

    Interesting. We tend to make arguments for design and function and creating “The Experience” through UX, but forget who we make the product for – namely our client. And no ROI equals no value, so this fine line should be interpreted with the client through dialogues of pro’s and con’s.
    Nice read! :)

  97. 115

    I think you’re confusing a “good user experience” with the user “having a good time”.

    Good UX makes it EASY for the customer to understand and complete the business goals. Without business goals the user experience is aimless.

    If you have built a website that is fun and does not complete business goals, that is bad UX.

  98. 116

    Paul, thoughtful post. The critical factor is ‘understanding’ what the target audience of the interface expects, and needs, as they interact with a system, what the competition is delivering and what the gaps are between them. If the customer is able to select between service providers and one company’s technology is preferred for any number of reasons, that’s going to impact ROI. Bottom line.

    The thinking of your post is supported by an article I recently wrote that you may enjoy.

    I look forward to reading more from you.


  99. 117

    Great post!!!

  100. 118

    Christopher Kandrat

    February 21, 2011 7:19 pm

    That was a a nice article, enjoying to read!

  101. 119

    so in the end it comes down to “client experience”?

  102. 120

    As long as the business objective are actually being met, does the UX really matter?

    There’s a noted difference from a one-off sale, and a viable business with RETURNING CUSTOMERS.

    Make sure that the premature needs of the client are met, but ensure that your expertise is being followed through to guarantee a profitable and SUSTAINABLE business model continues.

  103. 121

    boring boring boring

    who cares

    just make it pretty

  104. 122

    god literally the most dull article on the web

    what utter bullshit, business, clients, UX

    UX???? UX???? abbreviating User Experience to UX?????

    what kind of up your own arse, lackadaisical nonsense is this

    honest get out more ,

    get a life that doesn’t revolve around staring at pixels all day

  105. 124

    Agree this article is weak

  106. 125

    yep UX dropped the ball, shame

  107. 126

    “But we need to ask ourselves whether those additional fields would make users not complete the forms at all—as we fear—or would just slightly irritate them. If users ultimately complete the form and the company is able to gather valuable demographic information, then the slight irritation may be worthwhile.”

    I’m an independent software developer. I make a lot of money doing what I do, and so do the companies that benefit from my advice and skills. People like you are the main reason I won’t work with UX Designers, Business Analysts or Marketing “Gurus”. And whilst I’ve been party to many, many software developments projects that avoided wasting money on each of the above pointless roles, I’ve yet to see one that didn’t need developers like me (that know how technology works, and who moreover know that *not* annoying users is of primary, overriding importance, whatever some misguided wannabe marketing guru with a grossly over-inflated ego might prefer to believe).

    People like you are, and let’s be fair to you, completely delusional. You have no idea how badly your ideas come across to users and technical professionals alike. As evidenced by the fact that you honestly believe there is an acceptable amount of intentional irritation you can inflict on potential customers and you get away with it. Do yourself a favour, chump, and go and get a job selling marketing courses to gullible small companies, perhaps advising them how upselling can increase their profits “just like McDonalds did with their do you want fries with that approach”. Because making business use of technology clearly isn’t your forte.

  108. 127

    An example from operating systems would be when they ask the user “can we collect anonymous data”. Those screens annoy me just a little, but e.g. Apple has chosen to irritate people just a little to get valuable data from users.

  109. 128

    Excellent post, I agree with your point of view, since I came across such a situation, at first when the client disputes the user experience you’ve designed, generates a certain frustration, but trying to understand the “business” and its objectives can be flexible and balance the situation.


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