"We're on a tight budget, we can't afford UX"

...or why not getting a designer is expensive

This phrase, along with the classic "it's an internal system, we don't need design" and "we're focusing on developing new functionalities", is often used by clients who quite understandably want to use their always-too-tight budget in the most effective way possible.

Especially when it comes to B2B applications and internal systems, product owners (POs) feel that the improvements in how their product will look and behave will have a marginal effect on its success, and so they baulk at investing in UX design. They think that by ditching UX, they save money. Very often though, the opposite is true: by investing even a very limited amount of funds in UX design, clients are able to save money as the sprints progress. We're talking short term here!

They think that by ditching UX, they save money. Very often though, the opposite is true.

This is rather paradoxical, so it needs to be detailed.

Simply put, by having a designer in your team, the burden of designing the app is no longer shared by the whole team.

You pay for design regardless of you having a designer or not

Functional analyst discussing stepped navigation with the Angular guy before the daily meeting

What usually happens in a designerless team is that everybody shares the responsibility of building the UI. Sure, the PO might provide some wireframes, but they are often low-fidelity and cover only some of the functionalities the app will feature. Not to mention that in the process of refining the backlog, specs can change drastically. Then the functional analyst, along with the developers and testers in the team will contribute with ideas as to how to structure the application, where to place buttons, what UI components to use for a certain flow, how to formulate error messages, and so on and so forth.

Team lead doubting his lifelong design decisions

Needless to say this is a very ineffective process in which everybody loses focus trying to do something that's not their job.

Let's do the math!

Architect loathing everything that has to do with front end

Let's say you have 7 people in your team and only one hour a day is dedicated to UI-related discussions among the team. That's up to 7 hours a day if everybody participates, but let's say that's not the case and the total hours spent by the team on UI design is 4 per day. Times 5 days a week, you get 20 hours a week. That's 2.5 man-days every week! This situation can last for many sprints, resulting in a surprisingly high number of days spent on figuring out a decent UI.

My argument is that a skilled designer could achieve much more in less time, while developers and testers could focus instead on what they do best.

This way, you'd be able to slash more PBI's is fewer sprints and with a very reasonable designer allocation. Hell, I'd argue that for many B2B/internal-use apps, a skilled designer would be able to cover 80-90% of your design needs in 5 to 10 man days.

In the end your app will look and behave better and will cost less.

How about long term benefits?

Front ender deciding how to display grids on mobile

Well, investing in UX can be even more economical in the long run:

  • It would lower the risk of needing a radical redesign in the near future. Part of the UX process is to think of a scalable information architecture, meaning that the initial navigation patterns will still make sense after 2 years down the road when new sections and functionalities will have been added.
  • You'd have a better market response and better product adoption through attractive and pleasant UI;
  • UX designers can help you validate and pivot your ideas resulting in fewer chances of investing in stuff users don't want to use.
  • And finally, UX designers are familiar with a wide array of industries and odds are they might know something about yours too. This domain knowledge can prevent you from reinventing the wheel.

Well, that's about it. Hopefully this was convincing and the next software project you'll build will be with designers on board.

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