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In many companies, the user experience (UX) team is often seen as the people responsible for the aesthetics of a software, website or platform. But companies that are more customer centric have a different view of UX. In these organizations, UX design is seen as an integral part of the overall customer experience.

Audible is one of those companies. As Marcus Lofthouse, senior director of user experience at Audible, recently told us in a Q&A, the company sees UX design as a strategic priority. At Audible, UX is more than just about the visual polish of a product—it is a critical part of the company that helps bring the voice of the customer to the product development process.

In a recent webinar, Marcus shared his thoughts on elevating the role of UX teams and the biggest trends shaping the industry. Check out highlights from our Q&A below or watch an on-demand recording to learn more.

Build empathy—by engaging with your customers.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. However, according to Marcus, UX professionals often apply empathy to the wrong people: by focusing on internal teams and co-workers, they entirely miss what the customers need.

"It’s impossible to have empathy for customers if you don’t interact with them," Marcus said. "You have to see them struggle with your product, watch them be delighted and surprised."

Speak the language of business.

There is no good excuse not to be able to articulate how your UX team's efforts lead to business results. 

“To show value and ROI, you need to speak the language of business, and that means we got to start talking about metrics” Marcus said. “There are elements you can’t quantify, sure, but there are lots of things you can actually measure from a business perspective.”

For example, if your team wants more resources, you need to quantify why you need more money or people. To solve this, Marcus suggested tracking your team’s supply-demand curve. What can your team manage? What does the business plan to do in the future? Does your team have the capacity to handle what the company expects of them? Having insight on how much work your team does is crucial to protecting and even growing your budget.

“There are lots of ways to quantify user experience. Start to benchmark and evaluate. Use these numbers to show that your efforts (and the broader organization) is making trackable progress to improve things.”

Assess your team’s real strengths.

One question posed by the audience was about increasing the influence and role of UX teams in organizations where user experience design isn’t seen as a priority yet. A good starting point, according to Marcus, is to understand your team’s capabilities and assessing honestly if you have the right skills, processes and resources to take on more responsibilities.

Marcus explained, “When you want to become more strategic or push forward that strategic agenda, the first question to ask yourself is this: is your team capable of going beyond just visual polish and visual interfaces? There’s a vast array of design skills and people’s experiences levels and industries, and not all of that would provide strategic value. Think about whether your team has that experience before you push that agenda forward.”

If you are confident that your team has the necessary skills to be more strategic, then you can work on building credibility and trust to create opportunities for higher visibility. For example, you can consider “design-a-thons”—one-day workshops that encourage collaboration among different departments to solve specific design problems. 

Do your research.

Many webinar attendees were curious about speed as well. UX teams often work with or under product teams, so they have to adopt agile development processes.

Marcus’ advice is to establish the right processes from the very beginning. “Ensure that you have a process that allows you to work at the right fidelity at the right time. People often jump to design before the problem, hypotheses or use cases are identified.”

Design teams should spend 80 to 90% researching the problem and setting up the process, according to Marcus. “People argue about logo size and button color, but without the foundation, everything falls apart.”

UX teams are customer experts.

UX teams deliver incredible value for companies…if they can work on the right problems.

By demonstrating your ability to develop empathy for customers, deliver high quality insight at the right time and support wider organizational goals, your UX team can deliver more value to the business and gain more influence in the process. 

For more on Marcus’ perspectives—including his insight on career development and trends such as voice technology—watch an on-demand recording of The UX Factor.

Webinar: The UX factor: A unique opportunity to hear from Audible's head of UX

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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