UX and Organizational Culture

If we start pointing out some of the biggest benefits of this quarantine, remote-first mentality and pushing businesses’s digitalization forward would be among them.

Some companies have been surfing the information revolution since the beginning, but others had been holding tight to their timing beliefs or to their not-the-right-approach-to-my-business-model-feelings.

Anyways, what the hell has it to do with UX? Everything!

Before applying UX to your products and/or services, it is essential injecting it to your branding and organizational culture.

According to Gary Vaynerchuck’s article, Sales Vs.Branding, the “difference between branding and sales is simple. Are you trying to convert or are you trying to create an experience?”. If you answered the latter you got the drift.

Borrowing a little bit more from Gary, brand is “how you feel in the moment you interact with the product, service or business”. There you go — back to UX.

Wait, wait… Not yet!

First of all, UX needs to turn your business inside out, literally, your organizational culture needs to be (re)designed as such.

Work Simulator

Imagine your company is an app. Your employees have their own journeys, user journeys, thought their working roles and various abstraction layers. It means they execute many system functions, have different goals, tasks to achieve, distinct motivations, needs and pain points. As a result, your company structure and organizational culture shall create and maintain an employee interface and an employee experience.

In order to understand what I mean, we can use Jakob Nielsen’s 10 general principles for interaction design as analogy:

The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

From macro to micro level, the right communication and feedback with timing link company’s departments, bind team members together, promote leadership (rather than bossiness) and allow a good project iteration flow. Were you doing it physically in your company? How often? How can you do it in a digital workplace? Would you apply the same frequency?

The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

Each field has its technical jargon. In order to align employees to the company’s values, mission and vision, the dialect must be familiar to everyone. Moreover, it does not mean you can not add a pinch of personalised words and company’s slangs to it.

Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

Mistakes are part of life. However, your overall company’s guidelines, department procedures and activities’ scopes must be as clear as sharp (your employee will be framed by them). So, recognizing mistakes and working them out become part of the learning process (not a misleading one).

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

Your company’s workflow should be predictable and learnable. This is one of the reasons why agile and iterative frameworks have been intensively used, aligning employees wearing different hats into the developing process. Furthermore, following a consistent convention creates a being-part-of-the-big-picture-feeling in your employees, making their experience and knowledge interchangeable in networking groups and meetups.

Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

There are slips and there are mistakes, the first is usually caused by lack of attention and the last is a conscious way of executing tasks but with an incomplete, an incorrect or a misunderstanding goal. What are your strategies to prevent employees from making mistakes? Does your company have a “hornbook” (physical or digital) for newbies? Does this material contain helpful constraints, suggestions and a good default?

Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

Promote recognition over recall on your workplace. What are the available tools and procedures? Are they already organized, communicated and easily reachable? Are they constantly reviewed and updated?

Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.

Expert employees know the company and teams well enough to know how to manage routine tasks quickly. Avoid overwhelming new hires, efficiency comes with guidance and time.

Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

Distractions are everywhere. So, maximize the signal-to-noise ratio: throw away unnecessary and unused information, materials, practices, APIs and everything that can slow processes and internal communications down.

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

What if the topic 5 failed? Embrace error recognition and solution by communication and providing possible paths to solve it and to avoid its repetition — what brings us the last topic…

Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

Documenting is a necessary practice and can be accomplished in multiple ways. For example, a corporate university with wikis, tooltips, videos and chatbots. Finally, just make sure this documentation is easy to search, focussed on the employee’s task and list concrete steps to be carried out.

If you were hoping for a quick conclusion, just have in mind that designing anything is an endless iteration process and a published solution is just one of the possible ones.

Thank you for reading!

A UX / UI Designer. A mad scientist, a curious problem solver, always learning to provide a unique experience.