The Cost of Bad UX: Its Impact on the Bottom Line

2/19/2024
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Will Breen
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Summary: In the competitive landscape of renewable energy startups, seamless Human/Machine Interfaces (HMI) cannot be overstated. In this article, I'll showcase how poor user experience can negatively affect business outcomes. I'll also further present why a data-driven, strategic approach to HMI development is critical for operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. Join me as I explore the actual cost of bad UX and how committing to rapid iterations can help avoid these pitfalls, ultimately enhancing product experience through valuable user feedback.

Introduction: The Price of Neglecting User Experience

In our technology-driven world, I've noticed that people have little patience for complex solutions. They want things to work. For businesses, this presents both opportunities and challenges. When I create a new experience, my goals are to propel the company forward and provide users with an ideal solution to their problems. Nowadays, the user experience takes precedence over everything else. With competition for market attention, the critical differentiator for any product is a great user experience (UX). UX encompasses more than just how someone interacts with your solution; it summarizes the entire experience of your business. Neglecting the importance of an ideal experience can hinder a business's success regarding crucial HMI (Human-Machine Interface) metrics such as adoption, engagement, and future opportunities. It's time to delve deeper into this topic.


The Ripple Effect of Poor UX on Adoption Rates

There are various ways in which UX can impact a business, but let's begin by focusing on adoption rates. The term "adoption" is frequently used by product owners, although its definition may vary. In my view, the adoption rate of an HMI is a critical factor that determines whether users return to an interface. The initial UX presentation is a golden opportunity for achieving optimal audience adoption. If, at this stage, people do not intuitively understand their next steps, adoption rates will likely suffer. This is where the "ripple" effect can start to play; more on this in a minute.

When soliciting user feedback, I like to follow a "blindfold" process. This process refers to a person's first impression when encountering an interface, even before receiving any context or guidance. In uncontrolled environments, we are providing people with a tool about which they have no prior knowledge. This is a crucial moment in the UX, where we must set the tone and provide insights on how users can achieve their objectives. To address this challenge, I often include an "onboarding" or "walkthrough" exercise for users when they first engage with the experience. Additionally, I ensure they always have an opportunity to reach out if they have any questions. By setting the tone and guiding users on the ideal next steps to consider before exploring further, we can set their adoption of the HMI up for success.

The Chain Reaction of Inconsistent UX Engagement

Continuing from the previous thoughts, the adoption of an HMI and engagement are two distinct factors to consider. However, if the adoption process is well executed, this experience could ultimately lead to increased engagement. For instance, if people cannot find a solution when initially using the HMI, they are less likely to engage with the experience going forward. Although audience members may proceed with the initial onboarding, they are less inclined to continue using the HMI if their first encounter was unpleasant. When an ideal audience member cannot intuitively navigate the solution, frustration may grow, leading to false assumptions about the brand or offering. Moreover, if an HMI lacks the necessary tools for efficient task completion, users are more likely to revert to their previous methods instead of embracing a revised solution.

Recently, I completed a project with Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, where the nursing staff did not fully engage with Duke's newly developed software solution. Upon conducting research, I discovered that many staff members preferred traditional paper-based bookkeeping and later "inputting" the data into the software "solution." The app's challenging and unpredictable user experience was the primary reason for this preference. This insight prompted me to ask more precise questions to understand why the staff favored one option over the other.

Surprisingly, the team actively sought a better solution than traditional bookkeeping but felt that the solution provided by stakeholders did not align with their working conditions. This example highlights that while the organization adopted the new tool, they were not fully engaged with the ideal audience, so it did not provide an ideal solution for the team.

As an HMI designer, I primarily focus on delivering uncomplicated experiences. As mentioned earlier, the experience someone has with an HMI can significantly impact various aspects of a business's process. Let's consider the Duke example: although the team managed to complete their work, they didn't achieve the desired efficiency level expected by stakeholders. Consequently, this led to decreased employee productivity and increased costs associated with maintaining the current "solution." The impact of subpar UX extends beyond a single issue; it represents a holistic problem that affects the entire user journey. In most HMI settings, employee efficiency relies on utilizing the interface to achieve optimal outcomes. The more refined the UX, the better the resulting outcomes can become. Neglecting proper UX will inevitably manifest whether the solution is prepared for it or not.


Missed Opportunities: How Bad UX Slows Down Business Growth

If there's one thing I learned from 2023, it's that speed plays a vital role, if not the most vital, in achieving successful software outcomes. The emergence of tools like OpenAI's ChatGPT posed a new opportunity for companies and people looking to incorporate AI into their productivity. However, businesses that swiftly released refined tools like Google's Bard or Microsoft's Edge were better positioned to expand their product lines and offer more robust solutions to new opportunities.

Without a solid UX foundation, any new opportunities that arise for my clients become unique challenges to incorporate into the overall established UX. Let's consider the same "AI" example. Imagine if Google didn't already provide an excellent UX when using Google Docs or other software offerings. They would have faced difficulties in integrating AI into their products. However, thanks to their early investment in user feedback and robust UX, they could quickly launch unique features to their product line while keeping up with the market's demands.

Transforming HMI Experiences: Simple Solutions for Business Owners

Before I wrap up, let me share a few ways I would enhance an HMI experience today. First, I'd start by assessing the current experience with individuals outside the organization. Often, I collaborate with companies that have already executed the design and development of their HMI. As a result, seeking external input to gain fresh perspectives about the UX is beneficial.

Next, I would consider refining the design rather than starting from scratch. Depending on the existing level of UI/UX, it may not be necessary for a business to overhaul the HMI design completely. However, this doesn't mean the UX cannot be improved. By leveraging the creative assets or design tokens presented, I can conduct better tests and swiftly implement current elements aligning with the person's primary UX. I generally advise against a holistic change to the HMI design until users demonstrate a need for it. Begin with what you have, enhance the experience, and then explore potential new additions.

Last, I use no-code secondary HMI prototypes to test different experiences. I've been involved in projects where key leadership stakeholders couldn't agree on implementing the desired anecdotal experience. Instead of investing countless hours in developing a single solution, we utilized no-code prototypes to validate the appropriate UX based on feedback from ideal users rather than stakeholders. When considering an update to an HMI experience, consider retaining your current setup and testing it against an ideal solution prototype. I mentioned "secondary" at the top of the paragraph as I always try to A/B test my solution with the current environment. This process can save valuable time and resources while justifying the optimal experience your audience desires from the HMI.

Updating your UX may seem daunting, and you're absolutely right! However, approaching it as a consistent refinement process instead of a brand-new project can significantly improve your overall business. UX encompasses more than just how someone uses your HMI; it summarizes the entire experience with your company. When the HMI experience falls short, clients or employees may struggle to accept the new tool, leading to decreased efficiency, low product ownership, and slowed growth. By listening to the ideal audience through an iterative process, we can offer better solutions to customer issues and continuously explore new opportunities to enhance their day, even if they're unaware of the solution. Never underestimate the impact of a great HMI experience on your business and bottom line.


Key Takeaways

  1. Embrace User Feedback: Rapid prototyping with no-code tools, coupled with A/B testing, allows you to gather and iterate on user feedback, ensuring that the final HMI aligns with the needs and expectations of the end-user, not just the stakeholders.
  2. Iterate for Excellence: Adopt a continual refinement approach to UX updates rather than overhauling projects completely; this promotes efficiency and ensures ongoing improvements that resonate with users and enhance overall business quality.
  3. Understand the Full UX Impact: Recognize that UX is a comprehensive measure of interactions with your business, not just the usability of the HMI. A positive user experience can increase efficiency, adoption, and business growth.