The True Cost of Design

By Ian Stokol, CCXP posted 06-23-2020 09:33 AM


In my first post examining the results of Limina’s recent study on the current state of UX design practices in organizations, I discussed the alignment of the published best practices with CXPA’s CX competency framework. In my second post, I discussed the relationship between UX and CX. Next, I examined the role of design thinking in the overall design process. In my final article, I discuss the cost of design. 


Driving Change

 Would you like to spend money on great upfront and ongoing iterative design – sometimes failing in the prototyping stage (when it’s cheaper)? Or do you prefer to spend money on rework and patches and riding the risk of failing in the market with customers?

 All too frequently, UX Designers are embedded in Agile Teams as part of the development and delivery cycle to create digital assets like wireframes and coded components. However, the most valuable contribution UX designers can make is to inform and prepare a product backlog from their research and early prototyping (along with user-testing), along with the BA and technical architects, as well as defining the success criteria with the testers. These four dimensions of product design give Agile Teams the ability to properly estimate their level of effort and deliver a working product or feature far more predictably and efficiently. Of course, designers do play a QA/pivot role during Agile Sprints and Program Increments, but many organizations expect design and development to occur at roughly the same time with the misguided belief that it’s an efficient process. It isn’t. Designers rudely call this approach “putting lipstick on a pig.”

 From Limina's recent study, only 49% of Senior UX and Design leaders report to a C-level executive. Is this just lip-service (excuse the pun) to have some design functionality or indicative of a deep lack of understanding of the value of customer-centric design on business success? Many managers don’t understand the connection between UX design and cost-savings (reduced rework and defects) and legal compliance (accessibility, or designing for all people, is part of the UX suite of skills). As Limina co-founder and principal Jon Fukuda says, “The other piece of learning for us was that it's incumbent upon you not to just be measuring the market impact [of integrating design], but also, your operational efficiency impacts.”

 Limina defines human-centered design as “prioritizing the needs and goals of people when designing the user experience of software and technical systems.”  As Jon told us during his presentation, “70% [of the surveyed respondents] are saying their organizations understand human-centered design. But then when you look at the delta between the understanding, what's actually happening on the ground is, folks are really talking the talk these days, but not necessarily walking yet.”ux-787980_1920.jpg

 As CX professionals, we must drive change and develop organizational adoption and accountability. Fukuda says that Limina’s survey reveals there is more work to do. “Not all organizations are well-aligned in this way. The IT functions of the business are usually well-aligned with their business functions. However, design and technology still have to sort out their alignments and work on common ground.”

A Note on Outside-In Thinking and Design 

If UX isn’t part of day-to-day CX work and product development, then product managers (accountable touchpoint owners) can lose sight of who they are building solutions for with the business pressures of delivery costs and deadlines. UX practices keep the customer needs and expectations - based best-practice research - the ‘north star’ of product design and development. 

 Through evidence-based research and design, UX gives product managers confidence that they are probably right, not possibly right. It is a risk management strategy to significantly reduce the cost of rework and avoid predictable failures. This is a key benefit to CX outside-in thinking and to the management of a Product Lifecycle – we need to demonstrate value, not assume or document value as part of a ‘ticking the box’ culture.

 To Download Limina’s study, click here.


About Ian Stokol CCXP, PMP, PMI-ACP, AgilePM

With a blend of CX management disciplines, UX Design and project management skills, Ian has worked with organizations and led teams to understand their customers’ desired outcomes and then plan, align, create and deliver customer-centric experiences. As one of the 2019 CX Impact Award Winners, Ian continues to work in and study Customer Experience Management, Human-Centred Design, and Project Management, bridging the gap between organizational strategy, its implementation, and evolution. Ian is the Senior CX Manager in Monash University’s Strategic Marketing and Communications Team and a design league coach at the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF). 

About Limina

Limina is a user experience (UX) and technical design consultancy that helps Fortune 500 companies and government agencies simplify complex human-to-computer interactions by designing more intuitive, integrated digital user experiences. Limina’s discovery process helps clients uncover the needs and wants of their customers, rather than create a new product or service that they think customers want. Founded in 2003, Limina is based in Longmont, CO. Learn more at or follow them on LinkedIn at, on Twitter @liminaux, and on Instagram @liminaux.