The real business value of design

Business Value of Design

Larry Faragalli
August 6, 2019

Design isn’t just something nice to look at, it drives your entire business. When backed by useful data, it allows teams to easily collaborate, converts customers into brand loyalists, and provides an edge over competitors. This post explores the importance of design for business growth. 

It wasn’t long ago when design was just a nice thing to have, like a sunroof on your car or hardwood instead of carpet in your home. Fast forward to today:  It’s now a vital vein to any organization hoping to stick around for the long haul. That’s because design–with a focus on customer experience (CX)–is an easy way to leapfrog over larger organizations. 

Smart businesses are using design-led methodology to challenge their industries, stand out from the crowd, and boost their bottom line. And the boost is a big one. According to the Adobe 2018 Digital Trends report, organizations describing themselves as design-driven are 69% more likely to have exceeded their business goals by a significant margin. Furthermore, top-performing companies are 50% more likely than their peers to have well-designed user journeys that facilitate clear communication and a seamless transaction (69% vs. 46%). 

For more proof, look no further than the hospitality giant, Airbnb. This is the perfect example of a team that took a design-driven approach and then used that to map out their goals, transforming a once struggling startup into a multi-billion dollar business. By making design a top priority, working with actual designers, and continually shaping its business around the customer experience, Airbnb reached a level of success that most startups only ever dream of. 

Design requires a cultural shift

So, how do you emulate an industry-disrupting business like Airbnb? First, you need to make a holistic culture shift in your organization. This shift starts from the very top with business leaders who understand that it’s not just about putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls;  it goes much deeper than that. Typically, when we see organizations invest in design, they’re doing it from a “we know we need to transform” angle. They realize their industry is becoming more commoditized, making it even more difficult to stand out. 

Sometimes it’s as simple as realizing that your customers are using their phones all day long, and so now you really need to start thinking about implementing great user design (UX) on your mobile apps. It’s vital to remember that very few people will tolerate a crummy experience, so when your UX isn’t up to snuff, a remedy is required, which brings us to our next point. 

Snap judgments can be costly

As users navigate their way through the digital world, they make incredibly quick decisions on what they like and what they don’t–and they’re making these snap judgments based purely on your design. According to research from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, people looking at a website for the first time make their impression in just two-tenths of a second. The design of your tools, your website, and your applications send an immediate message, and that message conveys to the user whether your organization is secure, trustworthy, and profitable. To put it lightly, your digital storefront is what people treat as your marketing brochure. 

That marketing brochure better be up to snuff because you’re dealing with a lot of unforgiving digital natives. According to a 2016 study of millennial buyers by Merit, roughly 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product or service purchase decisions. This is a generation that has grown up with the evolution of smartphones and increasingly user-friendly software. These are people who expect every online experience to carry the same ease as telling Siri to dial a number or Alexa to play a favorite song. 

Good design saves time

Your employees can greatly benefit from intentional design, too. The benefits stack up quickly whether it’s making somebody’s job significantly easier on a day-to-day basis, or saving many hours for someone on the floor. Design allows you to take a redundant process, such as a five-hour task someone performs daily and parsing it down to just one hour. It can also reduce the number of people needed on a particular task, making you more business efficient, which then allows you to deliver improved products and services to customers. 

Takeaway

When investing in design it’s important to remember that it’s not just about making your website and applications look better. Design is a versatile tool that should be used to carve out unique and meaningful user experiences across the board. Great organizations also understand that design never ends, it’s a continual investment–one that will always bring you a return.

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