Achieving Harmony: Balancing Business Goals and the User Experience in Design

February 5, 2024

In the intricate world of technology, the role of the UX designer involves a delicate balancing act, demanding constant alignment between two goals: creating exceptional user experiences and meeting the strategic objectives of the business. This challenge is central to our work because achieving this balance lies at the heart of UX design for technology.

The Challenge: Achieving Business Goals and User Satisfaction

As UX designers, our aim is to craft user experiences that seamlessly resonate with users’ needs. Achieving this goal involves creating product user interfaces and navigation systems that are easy to learn, easy to use, and provide delightful interactions. Our ultimate goal? To step into the users’ shoes and design the best possible experiences for them.

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But, within a particular technology domain, our UX design solutions must not only please users but also simultaneously serve the broader goals of the business. Our design decisions wield substantial power, influencing conversions and user-retention rates and significantly impacting the company’s bottom line. Thus, the realm of UX design isn’t solely about satisfying users. It’s equally crucial that our work aligns with the company’s objectives.

However, a challenge arises when the need to balance the design of a great user experience with positive business outcomes becomes a daily struggle on our design projects. As a UX designer working within a technology company, the need to navigate multiple requests from the product and engineering teams is common. Sometimes, such requests cater more to the immediate needs of the business rather than prioritizing the design of a good user experience. So, as UX designers, we often find ourselves in situations where compromise becomes inevitable.

For instance, scenarios occur in which the design process might skip user research or usability testing to meet tight deadlines. Or a feature’s implementation might not align with the ideal of a superior user experience. Finding harmony between meeting business demands and ensuring a stellar user experience remains a persistent challenge. In the fast-paced world of technology, striking this balance becomes a delicate juggling act in which compromises are sometimes a necessary part of the design process.

How can UX designers create a user experience that satisfies both the business and the user? This is one of the most pressing challenges that UX designers working in technology face in their everyday work lives.

How UX Designers Can Find the Sweet Spot

Now, let’s consider several best practices that enable UX designers to find the sweet spot between serving the needs of users and satisfying business goals.

Understanding and Aligning with Business Goals

First, you must understand what the business wants. Align your design strategies to support the business’s goals while keeping users’ needs front and center. In many cases, UX designers prioritize the user experience, but sometimes understanding business goals takes precedence. Understanding what constitutes a successful business often must precede understanding what would result in a good user experience.

In some cases, building a successful business doesn’t necessarily rely on creating a superior user experience right from the start. Take Craigslist, for instance—an online-selling platform that facilitates product sales and job postings. Examining their app’s user interface reveals its simplicity in comparison to platforms such as Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp. Craigslist lacks fancy animations and a sleek user interface. Surprisingly, this doesn’t deter users from utilizing the platform to achieve their ultimate goals.

Speaking Up for Users

Always champion user-centric design on your product teams and when working with other stakeholders. Share stories and analytics data that demonstrate how good design translates to business success. Always remember that, as a UX designer, your primary aim is to create a good user experience. When you and your team are aligning on ambitious business goals, consider advocating for a superior user experience. A positive user experience often leads to heightened user satisfaction, increased engagement, and stronger customer loyalty. These factors contribute significantly to a product’s success in the marketplace by bolstering customer retention, sparking word-of-mouth recommendations, and potentially attracting new users. It’s crucial for UX designers to steer their product teams toward user-centered design practices and to make advocating for users a core mission.

Going Beyond Design to Create Successful Products

However, developing a good product requires more than just good design. UX designers aren’t infallible in making their design choices. Plus, unforeseen circumstances could arise during design. Business success relies on numerous factors beyond design, including market competition, effective marketing strategies, pricing, product quality, and broader market trends.

While a good user experience holds immense importance and can be key to a product’s success, it's just one piece of the puzzle. Although a product boasting an exceptional user experience stands a better chance at success, it doesn't guarantee success on its own.

For instance, consider the fate of Google Glass. This wearable technology introduced an innovative concept—smart glasses with augmented-reality features. However, despite its cutting-edge technology and intriguing user experience, the product struggled in the marketplace due to high pricing, limited functionality, and privacy concerns. These issues impeded its widespread adoption, eventually leading to the product’s discontinuation for consumer use.

UX designers must recognize that a successful design and outstanding user experience won’t always guarantee business success. When crafting design solutions, adopt a holistic approach, viewing the product as a complete entity. Foster collaboration with diverse teams and seek insights from experts across different domains. For example, engaging with the marketing, legal, and media teams lets designers understand how their different perspectives can contribute to shaping an exceptional product.

In Conclusion: It’s All About Balance and Prioritization

Creating exceptional designs isn’t about choosing one side over the other. It’s about finding that sweet spot—the place where both the business and users can thrive. As UX designers working in technology, our role requires merging both of these worlds and blending creativity, empathy, and business acumen to craft designs that cater to everyone’s needs.

Learning to make design trade-offs is essential. You must understand what holds the utmost importance in your current situation. Establish clear priorities. Should your focus be solely on design? Or is it crucial that you collaborate with other disciplines to grasp the different aspects of product success? Have a crystal-clear business model in mind when championing users’ needs and striving to design the best user experience achievable.

Design is an ongoing process; perfection isn’t attainable. Sometimes, pausing to observe, test, learn, and improve is necessary. Test your ideas and business models, learn from user feedback, and consistently work to enhance both the user experience and business outcomes. By keeping these principles in mind, you can discover the sweet spot that is beneficial for both the business and users.

Of course, balancing business goals and users’ needs isn’t a walk in the park, but that’s where the magic happens. Embark on the journey of crafting designs that not only fulfill business aspirations but also enrich users’ lives. Within this synergy lies the true essence of UX design—an essence that resonates with both business success and user satisfaction. 

Product Designer at PayPal

Austin, Texas, USA

Jason Zilin ZhouAt PayPal, Jason is building human-centered product experiences that positively impact people’s lives. His overall goals are to utilize the power of design to connect concepts, cultural moments, and people in a compelling way. Jason looks for inspiration from observations, conversations, and formal design research that stretches his perspectives. As a UX designer working in technology, he struggles with the daily challenges of harmonizing business objectives and the user experience. He navigates the complexities of advocating for user-centric design while ensuring the alignment of the solutions he designs with broader business goals. His work experiences have given him a deep understanding of the nuances that striking this balance involves and enables him to offer insights and strategies that resonate both with fellow UX designers who face similar challenges and business stakeholders.  Read More

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