Why engineering companies need interaction designers

The lack of attention to UX-design of engineering and other professional systems has an important reason, among others — it is not strictly related to the return of investment, because users of such systems are not customers (moreover, sometimes they are selected for system, not vice versa).

This typically leads to disheartening situation. When there are no designers — everyone is designer, and when there are no straightforward metrics — the resulting design quality can be evaluated as good or bad in the same way, as evaluation of distant future weather forecasts. Maybe it is a good forecast. But more probably not.

This post is an attempt to name the factors, that prove the importance of UX design activities related to professional systems, at least based on my professional experience.

  1. The design system becomes more coherent and scalable. Typically developers use ready UI components and solve the problems with them. But ready-made components are not necessarily created to behave consistently – it leads to badly designed implementation, that makes the internal stuff of the system, especially the architecture, hardly scalable or able to be changed rapidly. Actually. it is not so simple, but well designed interaction model with participation of both developers and interaction designers is much more flexible, than designed by developers only.
  2. Low safety and other negative consequences. Bad design of the system leads to human errors and low efficiency. It affects the business KPIs — and no one business want to pay extra fines or have other losses – both financial and reputational.
  3. There is still marketing buzz. There is no way to make a product presentation without screenshots. And if the screenshots are ugly, it really affects sales. Because even if customers are not users, they can perceive the system as well designed or not by looking at it — just because everyone use smartphones, websites and so on. Of course, there is a space for manipulation, but if business plays fair or fears of reputational losses, this is not a case to make pretty picture without good logic and behavior behind it.
  4. Actually, the users of such systems are not silent crowds. And their opinion can find the way to bosses. And the worse the system behavior — the louder are the voices.
  5. Better communication inside the development company. Mostly solution and product managers try to solve the customer needs, and  the developers try to implement their ideas in real stuff. The problem is that they think too differently — and there is a need for somebody between them to bridge the gap between them. Because interaction design activity is about interaction — good designer will also make internal communications between all stakeholders and development team more effective. And routine daily coffee talks and internal lectures should be considered too.

Of course, this is not fully about the user interface design — interaction designer in the company developing professional systems should have great communicative skills and understand deeply complex subject matter — partially he should be both analyst, product manager and developer to be effective. But these skills are related to designer competencies — and not to the reasons to prove his position in an organization.