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UserZoom State of UX in the Enterprise 2019: Top Challenges, Trends, and Opportunities

December 2, 2019

More than 200 global UX professionals completed UserZoom’s second annual State of UX in the Enterprise survey. Overall, our research findings show that the state of enterprise User Experience is strong and growing stronger. Nevertheless, many enterprise organizations still face common challenges. The good news is that there are lots of opportunities for companies and their leadership to grow and drive User Experience in the enterprise to the next stage.

While other surveys over the past few years have looked at the state of User Experience as a whole and at UX design in particular, the state of User Experience in the enterprise had not yet been analyzed in depth or tracked longitudinally—particularly in regard to understanding how enterprise companies are conducting UX research. That’s why, in 2018, we conducted our first survey with hundreds of UX professionals at some of the largest global organizations to better understand the culture of UX research and state of User Experience in the enterprise. In 2019, we’ve conducted our survey again.

Now, let’s dig into the survey findings.

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User Experience in the C-Suite

A little over half (52%) of the respondents in our 2018 survey told us that their company’s CEO mentions User Experience as a key differentiator during analyst calls, company all-hands meetings, and other forums. In 2019, this number has risen to 70%, which is a promising increase and points to the importance that User Experience is gaining in the boardroom.

Plus, in 2019, 29% of enterprises have a VP of Design or Chief Experience Officer; up from 21% in 2018. So not only are CEOs and the C-Suite aware of the benefits that investing in User Experience can bring to their organization, they are also taking action and putting their money where their mouth is.

User Experience in the Organization

Last year, we predicted that, as enterprises hire more UX designers and researchers, we’ll see the continued growth of dedicated staff who are fully integrated into product teams rather than an expansion of the shared-services model. This is exactly what we’re seeing in 2019. Only 41% of respondents reported their being part of a central or shared-services team that supports multiple product lines. This is down from 45% in 2018. Similarly, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of respondents who are dedicated to a product line or business unit—up from 26% in 2018 to 30% in 2019.

Challenges and Trends

In 2018, securing adequate resources and budget was the top challenge facing UX teams. Now, in 2019, UX teams’ #1 challenge is the inclusion of UX research within the product-development process—up from #2 in 2018. Sourcing research participants, securing budget, and getting executive buy-in is now their #2 challenge, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1—Key challenges for UX teams
Key challenges for UX teams

A good trend we’re seeing is that the severity of some of these challenges is decreasing. For example, “Securing resources or budget” was an issue for 60% of respondents in 2018, but only for 49% in 2019.

UX Research Methods and Tools

Our survey findings show that the amount of in-lab, moderated UX research has increased, making this the most performed method for enterprise teams. This shift to in-lab, moderated UX research seems to be at the expense of remote, unmoderated UX research, with 61% of enterprises conducting research in the lab in 2019—up from 54% last year.

Figure 2—UX methods
UX methods

Even more companies are reporting that they do their own participant recruiting for UX research—up from 58% in 2018 to 63% this year.

Figure 3—Approaches to participant recruiting
Approaches to participant recruiting

A very positive trend shows an overall increase in the adoption of all methods of UX research—both unmoderated and moderated. The most interesting trend is the speed with which remote moderation is catching up with in-person moderation. We expect this trend to accelerate over the coming years.

Of particular note is the rise in UX benchmarking. The adoption of UX benchmarking has increased dramatically over the last 12 months, as it has gained traction among those who want to measure the effectiveness of user research. In 2018, only 21% reported doing benchmarking, while in 2019, adoption has jumped to 35%.

Coupled with the rise in CEO’s considering User Experience a competitive differentiator, the rise in UX benchmarking is a strong indication that User Experience is maturing in some organizations. UX teams commonly use benchmarking to raise the profile of User Experience and report on its impact using metrics the C-suite can understand. Benchmarking is often a factor in securing budget.

We expect this upward trend to continue as UX leaders leverage empirical measures as evidence of the impact of User Experience. Therefore, benchmarking offers a great opportunity for companies whose goal is to grow their UX maturity.

Let’s consider for a moment how economics could impact UX trends over the coming years. With widespread talk of economic downturns across many markets, it is worth considering how the value and role of User Experience would need to adapt if these negative economic forecasts come to fruition. In a downturn, when margins get squeezed and budgets are tighter, UX teams should position themselves to support greater efficiency in product development and save their company money—as much as, if not more than, enabling customer centricity.

Should an economic downturn become a reality, we forecast that UX leaders would need to demonstrate how UX research could reduce development costs by reducing rework and closely tie UX results to improving margins—for example, fewer calls to call centers.

What the Future Holds

We asked survey respondents to tell us what they think will be the most important trends affecting User Experience over the next five years. As Figure 4 shows, we received myriad responses—with artificial intelligence, at 80%, and voice user interfaces, at 64%, weighing heavily.

Figure 4—Key trends
Key trends

The Opportunity

For UX leaders and all digital professionals who already care about User Experience and get its value, our research findings show that the overall trends are positive. For example, the issue of securing budget—last year’s top challenge—is trending downward, from 60% in 2018 to 49% in 2019. That’s good news for the industry! However, 64% of our respondents now rank implementing UX research and testing throughout the product-development lifecycle as their main challenge.

We could conclude that, with budgets rising, we just need to make User Experience happen. Doing this used to be straightforward. But this reminds me of when waterfall was the predominant way in which we developed software. The shift to agile brought with it new challenges and opportunities and, as a result, we saw a movement toward embedded rather than shared services. Agile development means UX leaders must adapt their approach to research to

  • deliver results within design sprints
  • scale to satisfy demand
  • support self-service testing by non-researchers on autonomous teams

However, unless we can adapt our research approaches to operate within agile teams and cultures, the inclusion of UX research as part of the product-development lifecycle could continue to be a significant challenge. That’s why we consider UX research to be one of the top opportunities for companies in 2020.

I’m curious to hear readers’ thoughts on our survey results. Are there any surprises? Any special areas you’d like us to dig into more deeply in next year’s survey? Please leave your comments. We look forward to the discussion. 

SVP of Global Professional Services at UserZoom

San Jose, California, USA

Kuldeep KelkarKuldeep has more than 15 years of experience in UX research, design, and engineering. He builds world-class UX teams, demonstrating business value through UX design and research. Before joining UserZoom, he was Head of User Experience at TATA Consultancy Services (TCS). Previously, he led UX Design and User Research at PayPal for nearly a decade. Kuldeep is a renowned author and speaker. He earned a BE in Industrial Engineering from Nagpur University and a Master’s Degree in Human Computer Interaction from the Industrial Engineering department at Clemson University.  Read More

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