The business benefits of user advocacy
Don't take our word for it...
Imagine you’re starting a project and everyone has gathered round for the kick-off meeting.
Everybody’s here: marketing, IT, operations, membership, third-party agencies. Everybody except the most important stakeholder of all – the user.
What is user advocacy?
User advocacy champions the user experience, putting users’ perspectives first in all phases of product design.
The problem with this ‘meeting’ is that it doesn’t represent your website or product users. Everybody present understands the product is for the end-user and thinks they’re representing them, but in reality, they’re not.
Sadly, we’re all affected by bias that aligns our view of the user with our own departmental or personal objectives. Marketers, for example, might lean on better data – citing the idea that users want ‘personalisation’. IT teams might want to upgrade internal systems, claiming users want more security.
The simple answer would be to appoint one person as user advocate. But despite their good intentions, this user champion is going to be outnumbered by their colleagues who’ve become used to years of working patterns. Instead, we need to invite users into the conversation.
The benefits of user advocacy
The importance of user involvement in software development is two-fold: users are happier, and the team sees more conversions. Let’s take the users first.
User-centred design relies on testing, mimicking customers’ experience and delivering features they want – not cumbersome barriers. In turn, UX user advocacy leads to better engagement. Take a new app, for example: users spend less time learning, increasing their chances of using the app more often.
How does this benefit us? For one, it’s less time-intensive: fewer users are burdening our support teams, giving us time to focus on development. Secondly, it reduces risk – making sure we’re not making expensive, large-scale changes that our users don’t actually want.
Let’s not forget that this leads to better sales, too. By streamlining the user experience, as defined by genuine feedback, we make conversions easier. Plus, UX user advocacy has accessibility in mind – meeting a larger range of user groups. Which means…better sales.
How to incorporate user-centredness and advocacy into software projects
User-centred design is a culture, not an afterthought. To truly champion users’ needs, we need to incorporate them into our working environment.
We can start with posters, or an ‘empathy map’. These are visual representations of the user experience – not just the journey but their thoughts and feelings, their pain points and their sensory responses. They are collaborative tools that let the whole team contribute.
Make sure you place these posters in high-traffic areas – not just the meeting room, but kitchens or hallways. Once your users are more visible in the workspace, they will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Work with like-minded people
When building a team of user advocates, it’s best to choose like-minded individuals with similar goals. These people will likely champion the user, caring deeply about their needs and expectations. Build your teams with these people to make the best impact.
This can start with something as simple as a Slack discussion. We can also highlight best practices and look at what others are doing in our sector. We might dispense this information in meetings or via a newsletter.
Gain real user feedback
User advocacy doesn’t always need to start at the development stage. We can gain feedback live, for example, through app interactions. Think about where you can get feedback from your users, such as in-app surveys. This is vital for making improvements.
These feedback opportunities should give users the floor. Listen to what they say and don’t sell – ask for advice, what they’d like to see, and their priorities. What are they trying to achieve, and what’s stopping them doing this?
Making feedback visible
Once you have this feedback, add it to your posters and other visual tools such as sticky notes. No piece of feedback is unhelpful. Encourage all teams to share any feedback they receive to make sure your product is constantly iterating.
With this evolutionary process, user advocacy becomes part of the culture. Outdated ideas are challenged and people work collaboratively to improve.
Make sure user conversations are easy to report, whether that’s a live chat transcript or an in-app survey. Share this regularly to create a culture of empathy and user-centred design.
Putting the user first: the facts
While everybody will have an opinion on your product, the user’s is the most important. A culture of user-centred design will lead to fewer errors, larger margins and more sales. But don’t take our word for it:
At least 50% of a programmer’s time is spent doing rework that is avoidable
Nine in 10 users stopped using an app due to poor performance
Frictionless UX design can increase conversion rates by up to 400%.
A strong piece of software is nothing without the input of all the teams we’ve mentioned above. But when it comes to longevity and profit, one stakeholder will make all the difference. Don’t overlook the user.
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