Beyond 'Nice to Have': Proving the return on investment of UX

Nicolle Moore looks at how we should align UX with business goals and measure the impact via KPIs.

Feb 21, 2024



min read

A 3D illustration of user interface flows shown on a whiteboard surrounded but a laptop and computer showing graphs with an upward trend.
“UX is a nice to have and not our top priority at the moment”

This is a statement I’ve heard a few times recently. It makes sense; organisations are in times of financial pressure so why wouldn’t senior stakeholders focus on initiatives that deliver immediate, tangible results? User experience (UX) is how someone feels when using our products or services, so how could we possibly translate feelings into numbers that demonstrate impact and value to stakeholders?

We shouldn’t be having to persuade stakeholders why our users are important to make the case for UX. After all, happy customers and high levels of conversion lead to a higher volume of sales. So instead of persuading, we can show them by making our UX work more visible and tracking robust KPIs that align with their most critical projects, strategic concerns, and goals.  Once we can demonstrate how UX plays an important role in addressing these areas, at this point investment in UX will become their priority.

So how do we make stakeholders see that UX is a good investment? First, we need to understand where their key concerns and priorities are. For example, are they aiming to increase revenue, grow and retain their customer base, differentiate the product in the market, or maybe they are looking for ways to improve operational efficiency and minimise risk?

As product teams, we must find a way to define and measure KPIs on a project, that directly relate to these priorities. So often product teams fail to implement a strategy for tracking KPIs as other priorities get in the way closer to a project deadline. Setting clear, measurable KPIs to track UX will speak volumes to your senior stakeholders. They can be used to demonstrate that investing in UX can address critical objectives, strategic risks, and clarify where the business needs to place focus in the future.

It can sometimes be difficult to measure UX KPIs as they are often subjective and based on how an individual perceives your product or service, which can be difficult to measure outside of usability testing. Even then, usability testing doesn’t always offer a true reflection of how a customer would interact with our products in the wild.

Here are 5 ways that you can set up and measure KPIs that align with key stakeholder initiatives to secure your future UX budget:

Increasing revenue:

UX design directly impacts revenue by improving conversion rates, increasing customer retention, and driving repeat purchases. For example, if your product includes an e-commerce checkout, identifying ways to optimise this can reduce abandonment rates and increase overall sales. Or maybe your site has a clear call to action for a potential customer to get in contact with the sales team. Implementing a strategy for measuring the changes that occur before and after the UX improvements is key for validating the return on investment. For example, we could measure how many new leads come in over a period of time since making the UX updates. We can also back this up using analytics tools to understand how the product is being used and to identify areas of friction and opportunities for further UX optimisation. Numerically presenting the facts helps us to translate the value of UX to stakeholders and supports future investment in UX.

Enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty:

A well-designed user experience creates positive interactions with your brand, leading to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customer satisfaction can be measured through surveys and tracking Net Promoter Score to demonstrate the impact of UX on customer retention and loyalty. UX is directly related to NPS score, if customers like your product and find it easy to use, they are more likely to recommend it to others. When designing surveys, ensure the questions map back to stakeholder initiatives and send them regularly. This allows us to track how customers respond to new features and updates, validating to stakeholders why their investment in UX is key. I worked on a project where we had an objective to increase App Store ratings of an NHS payslip app to drive sign-ups. After improving features that enhanced the UX, we introduced a ‘Rate the app’ feature. We purposefully asked users to rate the app after they had completed the goal of viewing their payslips. Users were taken down a journey to either leave feedback if they weren’t satisfied with the product or leave an App Store review if they were. This meant we could use the feedback to add ideas for improvement and areas of focus to the product backlog, and the reviews meant our app Store ratings increased from 2.2 to 4.4 stars.

Gaining competitive advantage:

Stakeholders need to be aware that investing in UX design can differentiate the company's products and services from competitors. UX teams can conduct competitive analysis and benchmarking studies to identify areas for improvement and design features that provide a unique value proposition to users, gaining a competitive edge in the market. Feeding this information back to stakeholders is valuable for helping to define the future business strategy and potential ways to increase customer density. If we look at how fintech companies have disrupted the traditional banking industry, this is a prime example of how companies can differentiate and gain a competitive advantage if they focus on customer needs and preferences. The number of users of online banking is estimated to reach 394 million by 2024, up from 39 million in 2018 (Statista report).

Lowering support costs and mitigating risk:

UX research and testing help identify usability issues early in the product development lifecycle, reducing the risk of costly redesigns or negative user feedback post-launch. This can have a significant impact on potential increases in support tickets. We can track metrics such as the number of support tickets before the UX improvements, and benchmark this against the number of tickets post-redesign demonstrating that our UX work has had a direct impact on operational efficiency and lowering costs.

Not all UX metrics can be tracked and some are subjective to an individual's experience. However, we can take insights from our findings and present these back to stakeholders in a meaningful way that aligns with the organisation's big initiatives. Spend some time understanding your stakeholders and what they are trying to achieve, and come up with the best strategy that defines and measures KPIs to demonstrate the value of your UX work. Try to measure the KPIs over a timeframe, and connect your findings between user needs and business objectives. Be sure to present this back in a way that speaks the language of stakeholders, ensuring that investing in UX becomes a top priority for the business.

Image by Vedant Hegde

the author

Nicolle Moore

Sr. UX Designer

Nicolle is a UX Designer who loves finding creative and practical solutions to solve users problems. She has a background in helping businesses build and launch products from the ground up across multiple industry sectors. She follows a user centric approach, and aims to design seamless experiences that result in positive business outcomes.