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Ask the Headhunter/ General Management

Where’s Your UX Expert?

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by Nick Corcodilos
Contributing Writer
CMO.com

See More by this author >

Article Highlights:

  • A UX team to help you translate what marketing thinks customers want into what they love to use on their mobile devices.
  • UX experts are rare, cost a lot, and the best ones will take the job only if it offers a new challenge.
  • If an app doesn’t work as elegantly as an iPhone, then it probably won’t fly.

Your IT department finally finished the app—that little tool that’s going to really touch the customer, provide a seamless experience, and do it all via mobile. It delivers 100 important functions that customers need, just like your marketing team wanted—and that’s exactly what IT delivered.

Except nobody’s using it. It’s too confusing. There are too many options, and it takes too long to navigate through all of them. The app is a dud because you’re way behind in your recruiting agenda.

What went wrong is that you probably don’t have a UX (user experience) team to help you translate what marketing thinks customers want into what customers love to use on their mobile devices. The bottom line: What works on a PC and what IT knows how to build isn’t what engages customers while they’re commuting on a train or having lunch in a restaurant.

"Now people expect everything they interface with to have the ease of use of the iPhone," says the CTO of a recruiting firm in the Computerworld article “Tech hotshots: The rise of the UX expert.”

Designing apps that have a great user interface requires a UX expert (or maybe several of them). And hiring one is no small feat. They’re rare, they cost a lot, and the best ones will take the job only if it offers a new challenge. They call the shots. Get used to it, until UX goes the way of Cobol—and that means a long time because Cobol is still with us.

Here’s the short version of what you need to consider:

1. Mobile means efficient and fast. What you think customers need isn’t always what customers want. In the Computerworld story, payroll services company ADP decided its new app needed almost nine dozen “important” features. A UX team brought in to help design it whittled these down to 20 and probably saved the app from failure. ADP’s engineering team was shocked but realized the UX designers were right: As long as it’s highly usable, an app doesn’t need to include the kitchen sink. It’s a whole new world.

2. Recruiting UX experts is gonna cost you. Computerworld reports that starting salaries for UX talent range from $70,000 to $110,000 but can reach $150,000. The skills required by these jobs span the disciplines of “design, programming and human behavior.” And the few real UX pros out there are picky about the jobs they take. So get ready to spend money to do some exciting projects.

3. Apple has set the standard. Nobody wants to use a crappy app. If it doesn’t work as elegantly as an iPhone, then it probably won’t fly. Apple has trained users to expect perfection. This is probably why creating a simple app is best. Include only functions your UX advisers deem worthy, and there’s less chance your app will be an ugly dud.

4. You may need to grow your own. Schools are not yet producing all of the UX designers the world needs. According to the Computerworld article, you might be able to create a multidisiplinary team of your own, for now, that includes engineers, designers, and programmers who can work together to create something customers will love. Your UX capabilities may grow from that team, or you may still need to look outside for help.

Marketing and information technology have grown intimately close in companies where the customer experience is king. But keeping the relationship productive and its output successful means adopting new standards and expectations, some of which are wholly new to the organization. As the user experience takes over more of the center stage in marketing, your investment in UX expertise will probably signal how successful your digital marketing efforts will be. Like that politician once said, “It’s the people, Stupid.”  If you haven’t started hiring and developing UX people, then you may already be falling behind.

About Nick Corcodilos

Nick Corcodilos writes "Ask The Headhunter," a weekly blog on CMO.com in which he shows you how to tackle the daunting obstacles that job hunters and managers face when trying to work together. From time to time, Corcodilos also will provide feature stories offering insights into various management career strategies, In addition, his newest books, Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, How to Work with Headhunters and How Can I Change Careers?, are available as PDFs.

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