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Some Tips to Get Rid of the UX Debt

April 28, 2019 |
Brand & Identity, UX, Web Design
UX Debt

A lot of times you will find yourself facing a situation wherein your product will show an inconsistent behavior or performance. This occurs due to the long-term sacrifices you have made over time for short-term gains, or what we call ‘UX debt’. In our previous article, we discussed Design Debt. We covered what it really means, its identification, impact and common causes. In this article, we will cover the ways through which you can erase UX debt most effectively and efficiently. It’s very common for a company to release a bunch of features in one go to gain market share as they focus on quick user acquisition. As a result, the cleanup work gets delayed and is pushed back for later sprints.

Getting rid of the UX debt takes time, and cannot be completed in one go. If you think that you can get rid of the UX debt in your next release, then you probably need to re-think. It’s best to create a plan and follow it meticulously to eliminate your debt. Follow the below-mentioned points to erase your UX debt:

Make a UX Debt Inventory

The first step towards erasing UX debt is to understand the debt. Whether you are a new hire or an existing team member, you must be aware of what you’re up against. This starts with creating an inventory.

For this, you need to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Use the product yourself and highlight anything you find unintuitive or confusing. Keep noting down your comments as you use the product. Another great way of performing this activity is by maintaining a spreadsheet within your team’s cloud folder and evaluating the heuristics together. The team can review the system based on some important criteria including findability, accessibility, clarity of communication, usefulness, credibility, learnability, overall aesthetics, persuasive design etc.

Evaluation process

You can create a clear picture of UX gaps by involving the whole team. The evaluation process may last a couple of weeks. Once the evaluation process is over, make sure you keep a realistic and manageable target date to slowly fill up the UX gaps.

This exercise is highly informative, however, you’re not the intended user. After conducting a UX debt inventory, you need to validate your findings by observing actual users and subject matter experts. This will help you better prioritize the work with product managers for the payback sprints or the backlog.

Prioritize Your Work

Once the UX debt inventory is ready, you must prioritize the tasks in order to address them in realistic stages.

The selection must consider a few factors:

1. How severe is the issue?

The severity of an issue must be the first factor to be considered as it may create a huge impact. How critical and big is the issue? Is it stopping users from doing their work? Is there a safety or security risk? If the issue is causing a potential customer to turn around and look to a competitor’s product, then you know that it is super critical. These kinds of issues must be right at the top of the to-do list.

Now, look at the flip side. It’s not necessary that only problems and roadblocks should be considered on high priority. If some improvements save hours of time in the course of a month, reduce errors and substantially add to the user experience, they must also be considered on high priority.

2. How long is it going to take to fix?

If all you have to do is tweak the CSS, you might slip it into the next build. On the other hand, if it’s going to require a significant amount of development or will have to be thoroughly regression tested, it may make sense to hold off until it can be resolved with other issues requiring similar treatment.

3. Who will be tasked with addressing the issue?

If the task has to be done by the UX team, and they have the bandwidth, it may be given a high priority. If it requires the attention of a specific developer who is already assigned to other high-priority work, then it will have to wait.

Make And Follow a Schedule

After prioritizing your debt, the next step is to work with product management to get it into your release schedule. Agile is the most popular approach to software development these days.

If You Aren’t Using Agile –

If you’re not using Agile, your work is most likely planned basis a release cycle. The management of your organization takes a call on what will go in the next release. They consider various factors like development effort, need of the feature, selling points, what bugs exist and how bad they are, etc.

It is recommended that UX debt issues must be handled as bugs. The real benefit of this approach is that the debt items can be entered and tracked using the same tools and business processes as bugs. This ensures timely review and treatment. Ideally, a representative from the UX team should work closely with product management when releases are scheduled.

If You Are Using Agile –

Companies that employ a healthy Agile process to prioritize debt and other types of works find it easy to manage everything. They don’t face any problems in prioritizing debt with other types of work, assigning it story points, and fitting it into sprints.

UX debt should be understood as the responsibility of the entire organization and not just the UX group. There must be a great synergy between all the teams. That said, the best way to eliminate UX debt is always avoiding it in the first place. Our UX designers will be happy to discuss your UX, UI and other design requirements; talk to them now!

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