Extracting Triple Value from UX

Summary: Extracting triple value means going beyond basic UX Design and leveraging Service Design. Furthermore, prioritizing and making Inclusive Design the default will ensure higher ROI and a lower risk of shipping offensive products that exclude or harm users.

Thinking beyond buttons

In tackling design challenges, we need to think beyond buttons. While “user experience” originated as a concept covering the entire experience from beginning to end, UX projects rarely have that expansive scope.

The original definition (by Don Norman, grandfather of Human Centered Design):

“User experience” encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.

Yet product managers need designs of screens and buttons. In low-maturity organisations, UX designers are encouraged to look smaller, and tighter. In a word– buttons. That’s where Service Design comes in. Service Design brings a wider cross-channel, cross-journey lens, looking at the role of employees and backend systems and even deliberately designing policy. However, UX and Service Design would be narrow without Inclusive Design. Inclusion emphasizes bringing in users who are typically or historically left out.

Why this matters: Too much UX is done at the tactical vs strategic level. UX is often seen as a product or a feature breakthrough. While important, products live in ecosystems with services. The idea is to create products and services that meet user needs and drive business success while actively addressing issues of race, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, and other dimensions of lived experience in your design.

Taking a holistic approach to the UX methodology of Human Centered Design is increasingly urgent in AI projects:

For Meta’s rollout of AI chatbots, they spent 6,000 hours red-teaming the model to find problematic use cases…(Alex Heath, The Verge, Sept 27, 2023). Note: That’s 8 months full-time.

How UX Design is changing

UX design is the cornerstone of creating products and services that resonate with users. It focuses on understanding user behavior, needs, and preferences while ensuring designs actively combat bias and promote inclusion. To extract value through UX design in this expanded context, businesses should:

  1. Be User-Led: Begin by placing users at the core of your design process, paying particular attention to underrepresented groups. Conduct thorough user research to gain insights into their unique perspectives and challenges. Repeating this leads to a User-led transformation.
  2. Embrace user advocacy: Embrace user involvement throughout the design process. This user feedback allows for more than testing with 5 users, and instead prioritizes inclusive recruiting, so you hear from different user voices throughout.  That helps avoid tokenism or the practice of including one black or disabled user and thinking you ticked that box.
  3. Diversity in design teams: Cultivate diverse design teams (and management) representing a broad spectrum of backgrounds and perspectives. This diversity fosters a rich pool of ideas and helps in mitigating biases.

See You Need 3 Types of User Advocacy…

How Service Design expands your range

Service design extends UX design holistically across your customer journey. It actively addresses broken touchpoints across channels. Unlike a single channel or touchpoint scope, Service Design solves problems with Systems Thinking. This may include users, employees, and backend systems simultaneously. To leverage service design for triple-value extraction, consider the following:

  1. Customer Journey level views of a problem: Take a holistic, end-to-end customer journey perspective even in a tightly scoped problem discussion. Think Front stage (customer) to Back stage (employee) and consider your ecosystem opportunities. Furthermore, you can turbo your sustainability efforts with service design.
  2. Make “Team Sport UX” the norm: Taking a broader view requires more stakeholder involvement. Espeically when making a Service Blueprint. Therefore, foster cross-functional collaboration between various departments within your organization. Remove the silos to develop holistic solutions that elevate business value and better “silo-free” decisions.
  3. Prototype services as a system: Develop prototypes of the product-service system. This will take you beyond the limitations of a product-centric focus.

See What is Important about UX as a Team Sport?

Why Inclusion needs to be the default

Inclusive Design ensures that products and services are accessible and equitable for all, regardless of their abilities, age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Extracting value through inclusive design involves:

  1. Accessibility and beyond… Prioritize accessibility features that make your product or service usable by individuals with disabilities while also actively addressing issues related to race, gender, and socioeconomic disparities. Start with intersectional recruiting.
  2. Center inclusion first, not as an afterthought: Inclusion is not a feature. It’s core to innovation with “design for one, extend to many” (Microsoft Inclusive Design). By starting with inclusion, you can gain more rapid inclusion innovation. Your UX Design and Service Design processes above must ensure that every product-service decision promotes equity, safety, and justice for all users.
  3. User Testing with diverse groups: Include diverse user groups, representing a wide range of backgrounds and lived experiences in your testing phase to identify and actively mitigate potential barriers and biases.

See Why is research critical to Inclusive Design efforts?

Five case studies show why a triple-value approach to UX is critical

Here, we’ll explore how UX, Service, and Inclusive Design can work together to extract triple value at Apple, Airbnb, Google, Eve Mobility, and Microsoft. These companies started by building robust UX processes and then expanded their range with Service and Inclusive Design. In all cases save Eve Air Mobility, their commitment followed negative PR, lawsuits, and ethical UX dilemmas.

1) The secrets of Apple’s inclusive approach

Apple’s journey to UX begins in 1979 with Steve Jobs worried about computer user-friendliness. Next, Steve Jobs settled a lawsuit by pledging to elevate product accessibility and inclusion forever more. Today, Apple makes user advocacy part of company culture in addition to its commitment to accessibility and equity. Their Apple Fitness+ content is an example of Inclusive Design in this platform service. Diverse trainers create the content but Apple Fitness+ also offers different levels of effort and is tailored to pregnant folks, older adults, and more.

apple inclusive fitness plus content


2) Airbnb builds success with holistic service blueprints.

Airbnb stacked UX with Service Design and Inclusion Design. It has inclusion built into its flagship app.  Brian Chesky’s tweet on 04 May 2023 (with his video shared below) attributed Service Design to their success: “We created a blueprint of the entire experience: including 150 screens in our app and website, 70 user policies, and every interaction with customer service.”

Airbnb continues to create accessible experiences and improve how its platform welcomes everyone (in hosts’ homes). Their adapted category of homes, reviews, and filters for accessibility is one example.

Airbnb adapted category of homes

3) Microsoft pioneers an accessibility revolution

Microsoft’s journey to inclusion started at the top. CEO Satya Nadella had a son with a disability- he died in 2022. Nadella and his wife wrote books about their family by embracing disability. As a result, Nadella brought this “inclusion first” mindset to Microsoft. His effort pushed teams beyond usability to embrace accessibility as default. Like Apple, this leadership initiative fostered enterprise-wide inclusion innovation. Their adaptive tech product line is one example of this.

microsoft accessible tech

4) Google spearheads product inclusion innovation

Google is a trailblazer in UX and product inclusion. Head of Product Inclusion, Annie Jean-Baptiste, also wrote a great book on how to build for everyone. They continue to innovate with remarkable results. A recent example is Pixel phone Guided Frame, a photo feature that lets users (especially blind users) know if subjects are in frame.

5) Eve Air Mobility rolls out a drone taxi service for all

Brazilian start-up Eve (Embraer and part-owned by United Airlines) is led by “human-centric design ensures safety, accessibility, and comfort”. Head of UX Flavia Renata Dantas leads this vision. Subsequently, Eve’s emphasis on sustainable, accessible, and inclusive transport is producing results. The result is a safe market (and user) entry into a new category of futuristic transportation.

eve mobility drone taxi

Key Idea

To help decision-makers understand and untangle complexity, UX and Product teams must extract triple value. It’s not just a competitive advantage; it’s a moral imperative. Businesses can create products and services that actively address the needs of historically underrepresented and marginalized communities by prioritizing user satisfaction and actively promoting equity, safety, and justice. UX design can no longer be done alone. Service Design brings a wider view, and Inclusive Design protects users and reputations from harm.

Go Deeper: Sign up to beta-read Frank Spillers’ book on UX management.

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