Increasingly people are catching onto the idea that a great product needs a great user experience (UX). This, surely, is a good thing. But too often user experience is seen as something that happens on the front end, and that is surely a mistake.
User experience is about a user trying to get something done, and much of that is focused on the interface they use. That’s only natural. But the interface can only convey what the underlying system can do, and if the underlying system—that is, the business—can’t give the user a great experience then no amount of slick interface can hide that.
Here is just one example, relayed to me recently. My friend’s team was tasked with optimising the process of someone making a specific legal declaration. The best user experience would allow someone to sit at a PC and make that declaration in one sitting, in a short time, with no mistakes and as little head-scratching as possible.
A great user interface might achieve a lot of that. Unfortunately the organisation behind the scenes required a physical signature. So regardless of the skill of the designers and developers, there would always be a pause of days—or, more likely, weeks—in the process. At least until the people in the organisation changed their view of what was acceptable. That hand-off, paper-routing, and manual processing inevitably opened itself up to human error, phone calls of people chasing progress, and increased cost and frustration.
The most forward-thinking organisations recognise that their own internal structures, policy and culture play a huge part in the experience of the people they serve. They will shape themselves internally for the best user experience.
For others, siloed departments, complicated service or product offerings, and (sometimes) fear of upsetting The Powers That Be stand in the way. For those organisations, sadly, it is likely only a matter of time before their users find other ways to fulfil their needs.