• June 29, 2017
  • By Brian Solis, vice president, global innovation, Salesforce

UX Can Make Your Business Disruption-Proof

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I’ve studied how long users will wait for an Uber in major cities before opening the Lyft app; in some cities, it’s as little as five minutes. If an Uber driver is more than five minutes away, many consumers will open the Lyft app to compare availability.

Uber (recent difficulties aside) and the like are resetting standards, expectations, and preferences for customers in almost every industry. It’s not just the convenience; it’s the user experience of these and other everyday apps that consumers love. These apps are collectively changing behaviors, which changes preferences, which in turn changes expectations, which in turn changes the game for businesses in every industry.

Truly exceptional experiences become the new standard for engagement. You, and other customers like you, don’t go backward. All businesses now need to recognize that they compete with this new genre of apps and the groundbreaking user experiences they deliver.

Over the years, many companies built their reputations on giving customers predictability and access. This created a status quo mind-set where products, services, and experiences were designed to be largely transactional and good enough. Now people expect anything but the status quo.

Remember, you’re designing for a new wave of customers whose faces are permanently lit with the glow of their mobile devices. You have to design for them. Expecting their behaviors to conform to your old or current standards is imprudent.

Case in point: Bodegraven, a city in the Netherlands, installed strip traffic lights into the sidewalks at pedestrian crossings because people are always looking down at their phones. The risk of wandering into traffic represents a significant safety risk to themselves and other vehicles and pedestrians.

A spokesperson for HIG Traffic Systems, the company that designed the lights, told Dutch-language site OmroepWest, “Smartphone use by pedestrians and cyclists is a major problem. Trams in The Hague regularly make emergency stops because someone looks at their smartphone instead of traffic.” The lesson? Understand behavior and get in front of it.

What if a design team considered the user experience of today’s connected driver? They wouldn’t just aim to clean up existing designs; they’d consider how users effectively engage with information today on mobile devices.

Designer Nikki Sylianteng, for example, aimed to transform parking signs from text-based artifacts to something visual and intuitive by taking inspiration from her favorite mobile apps. Sylianteng’s design featured a series of popular calendar-style bars that represented a block of days divided into easily discernible times. Parking restrictions were marked in red; blocks of time when you’re permitted to park were noted in green. Her design reflected how our eyes could be naturally drawn to the day and time in which we want to park rather than having to decipher the verbal instructions.


User experience is a mandate to earn unobstructed, genuine relevance throughout the customer life cycle and thrive in an era of digital disruption. To do so, UX needs a promotion. The truth is that UX should be applied to every facet of business.

Start with relevance. Understand what relevance means to and how it’s valued by someone else (i.e., not you). Then identify the gaps between what they value and the experiences you deliver as well as the brand promises you make today. Then study the experiences that people love on all fronts. You’ll quickly discover what I call the experience divide, and it exists in almost every organization I’ve ever studied.

Solving for experience takes empathy, vision, resolve, and the ability to bring together the right people, technologies, and partners to work toward relevant, human-centered experiences. UX will inspire a more human approach to CX and digital transformation. The result is a more relatable and desirable brand, more sought-after products, and a more intuitive and personal journey. User experience teaches companies how to be more empathetic and, as a result, more human.

Brian Solis is an author, a keynote speaker, and a digital analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet company. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Invite him to speak at your next event.

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