Do IT Teams Need UX Professionals to Deliver Great User Experiences?


on September 15, 2017

I’ve written a lot lately about user experience design. Developing a deep understanding of users, their needs, and their behaviors are required to build applications that deliver great UX on any device. Ultimately, this user-centric approach to app design and development is crucial to combating app fatigue and realizing apps’ intended business value.

But all this focus on UX begs the question: as an enterprise IT leader, exactly how many UX professionals does my team need to deliver great user experiences consistently and at scale?

Most Enterprises Lack Sufficient UX Design Resources

After all, most enterprises are already understaffed in terms of UX design resources. On average, there is just one UX designer for every 17 developers, while 35 percent of organizations have no UX design competency at all. In contrast, many experts put the average designer-to-developer ratio for innovative consumer tech companies at 1:4.

This ‘UX gap’ will only widen as enterprise digital transformation demands push IT to deliver more applications that drive operational efficiency, customer engagement, and revenue growth. In fact, Gartner predicts that, through 2021, demand for app development will grow at least five times faster than IT capacity to deliver it.

UI Frameworks Can Help Close the UX Gap

Faced with a shortage of UX resources and the need to increase application delivery throughput, IT leaders must embrace new approaches to get more leverage from their existing UX talent while enabling more individuals to create engaging user experiences.

One approach to scaling UX capability is to adopt a low-code development platform with an integrated UI framework. Such frameworks promote the reuse of UI elements and layouts by facilitating a layered, componentized approach to app design. For instance, the Mendix Atlas UI Framework consists of five layers of design elements:

  1. Navigation Layouts – The frame within which pages are housed, providing a consistent structure and controlling how users navigate through your app.
  2. Page templates – Common mobile, tablet, or responsive page patterns (e.g. dashboards, lists, wizards, etc.) that can be implemented out of the box.
  3. Building blocks – Single-purpose UI elements (e.g. headers, timelines, breadcrumbs, etc.), comprised of multiple, pre-configured widgets and styling. Because they are already laid out, building blocks can be dragged and dropped onto any mobile, tablet, or responsive page, speeding creation of custom pages.
  4. Widgets – Small user interface elements (e.g. alerts, buttons, charts, etc.) used to enhance existing building blocks.
  5. Design Properties – A menu for configuring the color, text, and other variables of individual building blocks and widgets, if styling or placement isn’t quite right.

Drawing from this array of design elements based on common patterns and best practices, developers and business analysts without front-end development or UI design skills can create beautiful, engaging, and highly usable UIs. All building blocks and widgets are fully responsive and look great out of the box, so no additional design effort or coding is required to implement. And with pre-configured design properties, every detail has been thought through so developers can focus on building functionality, versus fussing with spacing and styling.

Minimizing developers’ dependence on UX resources and complex coding provides another benefit: they can take a user-centric, test-and-learn approach, collaborating closely with business stakeholders and end users to design, test, and optimize UX in short iterations. Thus, they can more quickly get to the right UX dictated by certain user groups and the scenarios in which the application will be used.

Leverage Existing UX Resources to Define Your Organization’s Design Language

A framework like Atlas UI enables your existing UX resources to extend the out-of-the-box components, assembling their own building blocks, creating custom widgets, and overriding the default design properties. New and enhanced design elements are automatically propagated throughout all applications in which each element is used.

In addition, your UX resources can define a standardized design language for developers across your organization to leverage within their apps, ensuring a consistent user experience across both customer- and employee-facing apps. This design language includes your organization’s theme and styling as well as a customized set of design elements. To kick-start development of new apps, these elements can be packaged into a branded starter app, providing a collection of page templates with pre-composed arrangements of building blocks, as well as individual building blocks and widgets that developers can choose from when building custom pages.

Deliver Great User Experiences at Scale Without Additional UX Resources

Ultimately, apps that aren’t deemed relevant, usable, and desirable by their users won’t be adopted, putting their intended business goals at risk. In fact, Gartner predicts that one-third of enterprise apps will fail within six months.

Given the UX resource shortage, many organizations already face, a layered, componentized UI framework that facilitates reuse is key to delivering consistent and engaging user experiences at scale. Taking this approach, a designer-to-developer ratio of 1:17 can be perfectly sufficient, as existing UX resources are able to create a standardized design language that can be leveraged seamlessly across multiple, distributed development teams.

For best practices on what constitutes great multi-channel design, download our Executive Brief “Four Principles for Great Multi-Channel User Experiences.