I believe that the experience a customer has of a product or service is a direct reflection of the state of the company that produced it.
It makes sense that broken companies make broken things.
I was speaking to a colleague recently about a conversation he’d had with a senior executive.
The guy told him that his job was to ensure the outside world thought everything was ok, whilst in reality he knew that everything was on fire.
Organisations are often broken
I’ve often seen unrealistic business models, demotivated staff, a lack of any shared vision and stifling organisational politics result in bad design decisions.
I bet you can list many operational issues where you work and link them to the negative user experience they result in for your customers.
I used to work on an intranet that used the organisation structure as the basis of the structure of its navigation.
For some bizarre political reason the HR department sat within the IT department so if you wanted information about maternity leave you needed to go via the IT link in the navigation.
When we showed users where this information sat within the IA they looked at us as if we were completely mad.
And rightly so.
Painting over the mould
Good design can be used as a perfect opportunity for organisations to create a veneer of sanity over their own ‘internal fires’ but of course it’s not enough.
It’s like when you paint over mould.
It looks great for a while and you feel all smug and then the mould comes back because you have failed to solve the fundamental underlying issues.
It’s not unusual to see organisations go through cycles of completely redesigning their websites for exactly this reason.
So a great redesign can feel like job done, but then it falls apart because no one realised that it’s one thing to design a great experience and an altogether different thing to be able to maintain it over time.
I’m sure I’m not alone in having redesigned the same thing more than once during my career.
Designing the thing is not enough
Considering something like a website as a service that is never finished is helpful because people naturally then consider what effort will be required to support the design over time.
So as you are designing you should not only be creating things that people need and that can actually be built, but also things that can be maintained and supported by the organisation during their lifespan.
Consider the thing you are designing now and ask yourself the following questions.
Does the organisation have the capability to maintain the experience you have designed? How will content for it be generated, policed and maintained? Does the governance structure exist to protect the user experience? Who will maintain the product roadmap to guide its evolution to support the vision of the organisation? Who will provide the user insights to prove or disprove the hypotheses and assumptions we held during the design process?
Chances are you will need to not only redesign the thing, but you’ll probably also need to redesign the organisation in some way to be able to run the thing.
Scary hey, but what an amazing opportunity.
The realm of the designer widens yet further into new domains and we’ve got the skills to do it because we’re great at spotting problems and solving them.
So by asking the question of ‘how will the organisation support, run and manage this thing we are designing’ during the design process, your designs will stand a greater chance of surviving and providing the user and business benefits you intended them to.