I remember it like it was yesterday. The year was 2008 and I was about 6 months into a fresh relationship with my new girlfriend. She hadn’t been long out of college and I’d only graduated a year earlier myself. And we were both broke. She’d moved back home to her small, 1-stoplight town about two-hours away. And my ‘04 Jetta was collecting dust under the carport with a busted transmission, a $2,000 repair! It had been about a month since we’d seen one another and by golly, enough was enough. I was between jobs (2008 was a fun time for everybody, right? We should do it again sometime…) but had some money saved. So I decided I would get my first rental car and drive down to pay her a surprise visit.
It was all lined up. A shiny, black jeep. Decked out with leather interior, big-boy caps, and enough bass to rattle your bones. I was all ready to check out, when the rental agent asked me:
“Would you like the insurance? $40 a day will cover you if anything happens to the car. You could drive it into the lake and you’d be covered. But without that insurance, even a scratch could cost you…big time.”
Now keep in mind, I had practically cleaned out my account just to rent and feed this diesel-guzzling monster. And now they were asking for another $40? This was just one day! Surely I could make it up the road and back without incident. I simply didn’t have an extra $40 in the budget to spend on something that had no immediately apparent value.
But then it occurred to me. If I can barely afford the insurance, what makes me think I could afford to pay for fixing the car if some lunatic runs me off the road? Again, my dusty old car’s transmission repair was more than what I could afford to fix. Let alone this sexy beast of a vehicle. I bit the bullet and got the insurance, knowing that spending a little extra now, could save me a mountain of trouble in the future.
Great UX Design is like that. Taking the time to do a few extra things now and investing in the design, will pay off later. But it happens. You have a new project in the works but quarterly reports are coming up, yet you are still expected to get this project done on-time and under-budget. So before you decide to cut corners and only consider the bottom line, let’s talk about the importance of budgeting for both UX Design & Testing in the beginning.
Validating The Approach
Before the Visual Designer starts playing in Photoshop, and long before the developers write a single line of code, there is one critical piece of information we need. Will this work? Is what we are designing going to work for our users? Fortunately, you can acquire this intel before spending precious time and money designing or developing something that could potentially be a disaster.
Low-fidelity prototyping is an extremely quick way to get an idea of how design would work. You can use programs like sketch or balsamiq to develop rapid iterations of your website or application to see how it would function in the real world. Heck, you could even use post-it notes or sheets of paper to build a prototype. If the concept doesn’t work at this stage, it won’t work once you’ve added all the bells and whistles either. It’s better to understand what works and what doesn’t now, before you’ve started the development process and spend thousands of dollars building something that doesn’t work.
Insurance Is Cheaper Than Brand A New Car
My car insurance seemed like a lot of money when I was standing at the Enterprise check-out counter. Forty additional dollars just to get from point A to point B? But the alternative would have actually been far more costly. That’s why you don’t skimp on the prototyping process. Because of your investment AEM all of your decisions have higher-stakes. Big ships turn slowly, taking a lot of time and fuel to do it. As an enterprise level business, you are committed to a particular direction, and the cost of changing courses is significant. But the cost of not correcting user-challenges is even higher.
And trust me, it happens.
I’ve spent over 8 years in this industry and over the course of my career I’ve had several clients come to me or my employer after failed website projects. They’d initially tried to save money by forgoing the User Experience process or by forgoing design altogether, only to find that they needed to spend more money to do it right the second time, over and above the wasted time and capital from their last venture. And to think..it all could’ve been avoided by spending a little extra effort on the front-end. They’d tried to save $40 on the insurance, and ended up purchasing a brand new car!
If you’re wondering, I did make it to my girlfriend’s house and back without incident. Seems anti-climatic, I know. But it was worth it. For her, seeing a strange black jeep pull up into her driveway, only to be surprised when her beau emerged from inside of it, was one of the most memorable, romantic moments of our dating relationship. We had a great time and one date led to the next. We ended up getting married two years later. And not once have I looked back and regretted my decision to get the $40 insurance. It could have easily turned into a huge issue had we entered our marriage with me being in debt for a car I’d totaled one sunny, summer afternoon. Buy the insurance. Do the User Testing. You’ll be glad you did.