Andrew Hogan, Principal Analyst

Show Notes:

Design debt is the accumulation of design imperfections — often caused by prioritizing expediency — that build up to the point where they drag down customer experience quality. As Principal Analyst Andrew Hogan explains in this episode of What It Means, design debt’s root causes are understandable, its effects are serious, and (fortunately) solutions to it are well within reach.

The value of speed-to-market is well understood. Business needs often necessitate MVPs and quick response to changing market conditions (see: global pandemic). However, many enterprises fail to go back and turn those “good enough” designs into good designs. The result is design debt: a death by a thousand cuts to your customer experience.

Design debt is common in employee tools. Design teams focus heavily on customer-facing websites, apps, and digital products; as a result, only around half of design teams work on employee apps. This seems reasonable at first glance (why shouldn’t customers get the most attention?), but if employee tools languish too long, it hurts customers and the business. Think of a call center agent trying to resolve a problem using outdated software that keeps crashing.

Chatbots and notifications are also prone to design debt. Only 40% of design teams have a notification strategy, even though every business sends customer notifications.

So what’s an enterprise to do? Design leaders are already stretched, so adding more to-dos isn’t a viable strategy. Rather, digital leaders and other leaders across the business have to pitch in. After all, design sometimes goes bad because it codifies a preexisting bad process. Ask employees where their pain points are. Look at handoffs between departments. Are there better ways to collaborate?

For more on design debt and how to eliminate it, listen to the full episode. To learn more about building more effective designs and employing your design resources more efficiently, check out Hogan’s upcoming sessions at the CX North America virtual event on June 7–9, 2021.