I recently saw an article in Quartz that shows a screenshot of Amazon’s home page circa 1995 (see below). By today’s standards, it’s almost comical. The content is static – mostly text and hyperlinks – and there’s nothing interactive about it.
At the time, of course, the discipline of user experience design for the web was in its infancy, just like Amazon itself. But, as Amazon grew from fledgling bookseller start-up to the world’s largest internet-based retailer, it thought about the ROI of UX and continued to invest heavily in providing the best possible user experience for its customers.
Why? Because the company realized there was a direct connection between the quality of the user experience and the bottom line. As founder Jeff Bezos noted back in 2000 about those early days:
“In our first year we didn’t spend a single dollar on advertising… the best dollars spent are those we use to improve the customer experience.”
Amazon reasoned that if they could improve the customer experience to the point where they could easily find what they wanted and buy it with a couple of mouse clicks, then sales would grow. And grow they did. In 2017, Amazon achieved record annual sales revenues of $177 Billion!
What can we learn about UX from the Amazon example?
The primary takeaway from my perspective is that it clearly illustrates the direct relationship between the quality and sophistication of the user experience and the bottom line. Any good design obviously needs to weigh the specific business objectives of an application against the user experience, so it’s not surprising that there is a strong link between the two.
This was the case with Amazon as it launched and continually refined its e-commerce website, and it’s the case today for companies developing software applications for consumers and businesses.
An outstanding user experience can have a positive, quantifiable impact on the business in several ways, whether it’s saving money, selling more product, or increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction.
So what factors contribute to the ROI of UX? Here are some of the ways that an up-front investment in user experience design can result in a positive return on investment (ROI).
1. It improves productivity
Have you ever had the unpleasant experience of trying to use an ancient legacy software application to accomplish a particular set of tasks? Without the benefit of the advances in user experience design that have occurred over the last 10 or 15 years, these applications can make performing even the most basic tasks extremely painful.
A well-designed user experience, on the other hand, actually improves productivity for users. When things are simpler and faster, productivity goes up, and users spend more time performing activities that add value to the business. When they’re provided with an outstanding user experience, they enjoy many productivity-enhancing benefits:
- they know what tasks they can perform using the system
- they know what they need to do to complete these tasks
- they complete more tasks
- they spend less time completing them
- they make fewer errors
2. It reduces the need for training
In most cases, some level of training is part of the roll-out process for any new application. When the user experience is well designed, users can figure out how to perform many tasks by themselves – and the time it takes to become a productive user decreases.
Training is costly to develop and deliver, whether it’s provided online or in-person from a qualified instructor. As a result, any steps you can take to reduce the requirements for training represents a cost-saving opportunity.
Bottom line: a simpler user experience reduces the need for training, which reduces the cost of deploying your application.
3. It reduces support costs
Another area where a high-quality user experience can contribute to costs savings is customer support. Customer support calls are costly. When users find that an application is easy to learn and easy to use, they make fewer calls to ask for assistance and this reduces support costs.
4. It increases user adoption
User adoption – it can make or break the deployment of a new software solution or website. Deploying the software successfully to your users is just the first step. Your success will ultimately be measured by how quickly and easily users adopt the solution and start using it to perform their work more productively.
If you get the UX design wrong because you gave it scant attention and minimal investment during the development process, you risk low adoption from your user community. If you get it right, expect your users to come on board enthusiastically. They’ll quickly realize the benefits to them of using the system to do their job more efficiently.
5. It fosters product evangelism
Closely related to point number four: when the user experience is exceptional, people become enthusiastic about being users, which can be contagious. Sometimes these users become cheerleaders or product evangelists for your application. They’ll tell others about its many benefits and recommend that they take advantage of what is has to offer. Not surprisingly, this can lead to greater adoption levels and more sales.
Conclusion: the ROI of UX
As the Amazon experience shows, the impact of good user experience design goes far beyond providing users with an interface that’s nice to look at. As these examples show, good UX is good for business. So as you plan your next application, consider the benefits I’ve outlined and invest in UX design with confidence, knowing you can generate a positive ROI for your business.