Building a UX culture in your organization is a collective commitment to putting your users or customers first. It's not just on the UX team; it's a company-wide journey toward understanding and meeting user needs.

This cultural shift involves taking gradual steps, from understanding the current mindset to showcasing the real benefits of a user-centered approach. In the end, it can transform your company into a place where every decision revolves around delivering exceptional user experiences, fostering innovation, and gaining a competitive edge in the market.

We spoke with Mark Jones, UX Design Lead and Consultant, about his experiences building a UX culture. Join us as he shares his insights on what UX culture is, its benefits, and the steps you can take to start cultivating a UX-centric mindset and a thriving UX culture within your organization. 

UX culture

What is UX culture?

Mark defines UX culture as a commitment to “ensuring that the needs and expectations of our users and customers are genuinely being considered throughout the entire organization. And that the impact of being truly customer-centric is being measured as well.”  

“Ideally, we're user-driven in everything that we're doing. The users and customers are at the heart of all the key business objectives and the initiatives that we look to undertake. The key to success is for people within the organization to be brought into this way of thinking. That by being user-centric, it's going to help make their jobs easier and also more rewarding,” Mark shares. 

You can gauge your organization's UX culture on the UX maturity scale. Mark recommends referring to the guidance provided by Nielsen Norman Group. “It'll give you direction for where you need to be heading towards if you are looking to change a culture within an organization.”

This scale serves as a valuable tool for organizations seeking to refine their culture, providing a clear roadmap for development. 

UX culture

Benefits of a strong UX culture

Dedicating time and energy to developing a strong UX culture can benefit both your product and team collaboration. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the other benefits.

Increased customer satisfaction and loyalty

Users are more likely to have positive experiences with products and services that cater to their needs and expectations, while also solving any pain points they might have. 

Let’s say you have a strong UX culture and your team is developing the product roadmap for the quarter. 

From the get-go, you can make sure that the roadmap revolves around addressing the real problems that need solutions. As Mark states, “Rather than making decisions based on your assumptions or what you think your customers want, you're being driven by a robust understanding of what these problems are, why they are a problem, and how you're going to solve them as well.”

Improved product usability and adoption

When products are designed with user needs in mind, they tend to be more intuitive and easier to use, resulting in higher adoption rates and less frustration among users. This can also lead to reduced support costs, as users aren’t as likely to require assistance using the product.

Reduced development costs

By involving users in the product development process and continuously gathering feedback, you can identify and address potential issues early on, avoiding costly rework and delays. 

This streamlined process enables faster product iterations and quicker time to market.

Enhanced brand reputation and competitive advantage

By actively engaging with customers, collecting data, and delivering superior user experiences, businesses can gain a competitive edge. According to Mark, “It truly can be a key differentiator in helping your organization stand out against the competition.

“If you are in tune with your customers and you're having active discussions with them, you're collecting data and feedback at the right moments. So you're going to be focusing on delivering experiences that are genuinely going to provide that best-in-class user experience. And if you do this, why would your customers go elsewhere?“ 

Increased employee engagement and productivity

Mark also highlights that a strong UX culture leads to increased productivity and even innovation. By having a deep understanding and empathy for customers, team members can uncover opportunities for improvement, which in turn can inspire the generation of innovative ideas.

“I truly believe you become a more efficient and streamlined organization. You're not wasting time, resources, or money on delivering products or services that are going to have little impact on your customers. You're going to be really focused on doing the things that will make an impact.

“Ultimately, it's a great way of improving morale with the people who work in the organization. If you are working on projects that make a real difference to people, then that’s going to feel more rewarding.”

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How to build a strong UX culture

Establishing a UX culture is a gradual process that requires persistence and patience. We asked Mark to walk us through some key learnings he’s picked up during his career to help you get a head start on strengthening the UX culture in your organization. 

UX culture

Understand the existing mindset of your organization 

To successfully promote a people-centered approach, it's crucial to acknowledge that different teams may have varied perspectives on what it means. To understand their interpretation, “it's just a case of working with them, understanding what their approach is and what challenges they've got.” Mark continues, “Then you can start to introduce your approach by asking, ‘have you thought about doing it this way? Let me show you the way that I've done this.’ Or, ‘for this next project let's just try doing it this way.’”  

He goes on to emphasize that “it's important to get the team involved, then you definitely start having that impact.” 

Encourage participation and collaboration

In order to not only create a strong UX culture within your organization but also ensure its longevity, you'll need to prioritize team and stakeholder participation.

Collaboration ensures that you share ideas and feedback, and a collective effort is made towards achieving common goals. In a previous role, Mark shared how he encouraged teams to observe moderated research sessions. 

“I wanted them to see firsthand what the experience actually was like for users. And not only did we observe the problems that people were encountering, but it provided context behind those problems.”

He continued, “It really helped the team to bridge the empathy gap with our customers, but the key thing for me was getting the stakeholders actively involved in these sessions.”

Foster connections between teams

Build connections with individuals across the organization, beginning with those who can champion the UX approach. Mark highlights that starting with these advocates and spreading your message across teams can encourage broader buy-in. He emphasizes, “then it really can have this snowball effect.”

“You are not going to change a culture by yourself, nor is a UX team likely to have the influence to do this within an organization. So start building relationships across teams to spread your message and get other teams on board.”

“When one team sees the value of this approach they're going to tell other teams, or other teams are going to see it and they're all going to be interested in what this UX thing is. Then you can start having conversations, and help other teams achieve their targets. Relationships are absolutely crucial and fundamental to it all.”

Be a good collaborator and have patience

“Don't go into anything thinking that you're going to change it overnight. All the things I've mentioned above are crucial, but they take time, effort, and patience to achieve,“ states Mark. 

He goes on to add, “Take the time to build up the key relationships, be somebody who people enjoy working with and value your opinion and your approach to things. Then, you can take all these steps to start making a difference and getting people on board with this way of working.”

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Time to embrace UX culture

A strong UX culture isn’t just about designing user-friendly interfaces; it's about creating a user-centric mindset that permeates every aspect of an organization. 

When an organization embraces this culture, they can embark on a transformative journey that not only enhances the user experience but also contributes to overall business success. Mark’s experience and advice offer invaluable guidance if you’re advocating for UX within your organizations, and nurturing a culture that places the needs and expectations of your users at the center.

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