No value without benefit: What a good UX and a strong value proposition have in common

As a UI/UX agency with a passion for the X - the Experience - we have long been dealing with the question of what makes a user experience really good. To find strong value propositions for a product or service, very similar characteristics are important. And methodically, UX and value proposition optimisation also go hand in hand.

For good UX, as well as for strong value proposition, users and customers must see benefit and value in a product or service, only then will they become enthusiastic customers. The benefit is directly dependent on whether a product or service manages to solve problems and create tangible benefits. If this benefit is given and subjectively appealing aesthetics, good usability and joy of use are added, the perceived value increases.

In the old world, it was and is usually only checked - if at all - shortly before the sales launch or launch to see if the benefit is sufficient to create value and convince customers. If this does not succeed, it becomes really expensive - after all, most of the work has already been done, the investment has been made and, in case of doubt, the "coal" is written off.

It is more effective, cheaper and more efficient to keep an eye on the value and benefit right from the start, to see customers as an important part of the development right from the start and to test the benefit and value with them BEFORE the actual product or service development.

A possible approach to this - based on Lean UX principles, successful methods from usability engineering and the Value Proposition Canvas by Alexander Osterwalde - looks like this:

1. Context interviews with defined user groups

This is a qualitative method to find out what people do and how they do it in a particular context of use. In doing so, we find out which problems arise when dealing with a "task", what gives pleasure, what makes people feel good and what is annoying. We do not ask what customers want.

The important thing is to talk to at least 3 users per group, more than 5 is actually never needed. As a rule, there are hardly any new insights from the 4th user onwards. It is important to have an experienced interviewer and a good guide with guiding questions.

2. Evaluation and knowledge gathering

Affinity notes and affinity diagramming, context scenarios with structured evaluation of the requirements or interpretation sessions are suitable methods for this. We prefer interpretation sessions - all interested parties sit around a table, knowledge is shared and we achieve a good result with less effort.

3. Formulate value proposition and hypotheses

The evaluation provides insights into the pain and expectations of potential customers. In combination with the product or service characteristics - which should definitely be reflected and adjusted in this step - an initial value proposition (i.e. benefit promise, value promise) can be formulated. In the simplest case e.g. "We believe that feature X is the solution to the customer's problem X".

Value is created through utility, aesthetics, usability and fun. Value is created by fitting expectations and solving customer problems. As we are not the customers and neither are you, we cannot avoid talking to you.

4. design experiments, create "prototype

Once we have the hypotheses, it is important to find out how to implement them - with users or customers! - The test artefact, i.e. the "thing" with which customers are confronted in order to get answers, is central to this. We call it a prototype - this can be a product flyer, a landing page, a touchable product dummy or an interactive click dummy. Often a rendering or a screen is sufficient, but it is important that the prototype is suitable to provide a YES or NO answer to the hypotheses. How wide or deep the prototype is designed depends on the formulated hypotheses. Concentrating on the "minimal testable artifact" helps to avoid spending too much time and money on it.

5. Test, learn and repeat

Now we send the prototype to the test and find out in direct conversation with users or customers whether the formulated hypotheses stand up to scrutiny. 3 tests per user group are sufficient, 5 are better, 8 are usually too many. Such an interview usually lasts an hour and the evaluation ideally takes place directly after the test - in the simplest case little formal but quick with post-its and checking off the hypotheses. Depending on the result, the value proposition, the hypotheses and/or the test artefacts are adjusted and tested again if necessary.

6. Align with business needs, adapt requirements

Even if we as UX'ler have a soft spot for the needs of users and customers - of course the product provider, the business also has requirements. The test has provided us with a well validated set of hypotheses, from which features and concrete product attributes can be derived - both of which we superimpose in the final step to identify whether requirements should be adapted again. The result is a product or service scope validated at a very early stage by real users, which is very likely to be perceived as valuable by users and customers.

Isn't all this taking far too long?!

It will take us no more than four weeks. And there is no reason to worry about the supposed additional costs: the effort to develop even one feature without any benefit or value is much higher than the effort for Value Proposition Testing!

Markus Kugler

Managing Director & Usability Engineer


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