As a UX designer, you know that the work you do is invaluable. After all, your job is to help create products that make people's lives easier and more enjoyable.
But future-proofing a successful UX career isn’t just about designing intuitive and aesthetically pleasing interfaces.
It also requires the ability to identify opportunities, generate ideas, think outside the box, and contribute to your company’s strategic growth.
In short: you need to develop a skill set that ties the value of your work with company goals and vision.
Developing your business acumen as a UX designer can open up a whole new world of possibilities—both in your current role, and future career opportunities. In this blog post, we’ll look at five ways to ensure your success as a UX designer goes hand-in-hand with helping your organization achieve their long-term goals.
Let’s get started!
Why do UX designers need business acumen?
In today's competitive business landscape, a cohesive user experience can make or break a company's success.
A growing number of organizations across every sector are waking up to the value of UX—with 55% of the world’s companies actively conducting user testing in 2023. These companies are investing in talented UX designers to help them achieve some key business goals:
- Drive revenue
- Maintain a competitive edge
- Bolster their reputation.
Business thinking can be a blind spot for UX designers, who are typically trained to focus solely on user needs. However, it’s important to strike a complementary balance between addressing user needs and achieving business goals.
What does this balance look like?
On one extreme: solely focusing on user pain points—but neglecting to position a product as the ultimate solution—might leave a UX masterpiece commercially invisible.
On the other hand, an overzealous focus on company goals might lead to employing dark patterns, which deceive users into making an action that benefits the business (but can lead to distrust and a loss of brand reputation).
Possessing a strong business acumen allows UX designers to navigate this delicate balance, ensuring their designs not only cater to user needs but also enhance the company's strategic objectives.
5 Benefits That Business Acumen Brings To Your Career
Let’s look at five benefits of sharpening your business acumen as a UX designer:
1. Getting wider company buy-in for your UX strategy
As a designer, one of the most challenging aspects of your job is getting company buy-in for your projects—especially when working on a large-scale project.
By learning how the business works, and how your UX strategy fits into the wider picture, you'll be better equipped to articulate the value proposition of your designs and get wider support from people who control budgets and resources.
2. Standing out on the UX job market
While strong technical skills are essential, it's also important for aspiring UX designers to demonstrate an understanding of how businesses operate. Developing an understanding of key business metrics like return on investment (ROI), and customer lifetime value (CLV) will make you stand out from other candidates and increase your chances of landing interviews.
3. Getting the most out of your UX efforts
Understanding business fundamentals is critical for helping ensure your designs are actually driving measurable results for the organization. Being able to think about how users interact with products from both a technical and economic perspective will mean your UX efforts are focused on delivering maximum ROI—which will, in turn, help you gain more support for your UX strategy down the line.
4. More fluid collaboration with stakeholders across the business
Cross-team collaboration is an important part of UX, and understanding how the business works will help that collaboration run smoothly.
When you know what each person in the business is striving for—whether it’s higher sales numbers, lower costs, or more effective campaigns—you can adjust your approach to design in a way that better serves the business. You’ll also be able to communicate more effectively within cross-functional teams by speaking their language.
For example, when working on design solutions with marketing teams, having an understanding of key marketing metrics—like click-through rate (CTR)—will help you create designs that hit the mark from both a UX standpoint as well as a business one.
5. Moving up the UX career ladder faster
Another great benefit of understanding what drives results in a business context: it will help your professional development!
Being able to effectively measure—and drive—success will put you on track for roles like UX manager or product design lead.
These roles will see you focus more on strategy than design; where you’ll translate business goals into actionable design solutions. Being able to bridge the gap between design and business is a highly sought-after skill that takes a while to hone—but it can really pay off (figuratively and salary-wise).
5 Ways to Become More Business-Savvy
Now that we’ve explored the benefits of becoming more business-savvy, let’s look at five practical ways you can sharpen your business acumen in your day-to-day.
1. Stay rooted in the data
UX designers are often more focused on the UX design process, but it’s equally as important to assess the effectiveness of your UX strategy.
For this, you’ll want to look closely at trends in user data, understand ROI (and how to track it), and set success metrics against business goals. Developing a deeper understanding of data and analytics will help you make better decisions when it comes to designing products and services that meet customer needs while also driving revenue for the company.
2. Actively seek out opportunities to understand the business
Asking questions during company all-hands and retros, booking a coffee chat with the CEO, asking to look at pitch decks for the board, and shadowing stakeholders across the business are all great ways to get to know the company better.
You can also get better acquainted with the sector you work in by reading news articles and newsletters, or following industry leaders.
Taking initiative by proactively seeking out ways to learn about the business—including its journey to date, any sort of pressure it's under, or the challenges it's facing—will go a long way in helping you make informed decisions about product design and user experience.
3. Don’t get hung up on design trends
It can be easy to get caught up in following design trends, but that doesn't always translate into creating user experiences that meet the needs of your business.
To help you find a balance between good design and meeting company goals, focus on what has worked historically for your business.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't be agile and responsive to changing user needs—but it does mean you should take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and ensure all user experience decisions align with company values.
4. Host open design reviews
Design reviews are one of the most valuable tools in any UX designer's arsenal—and they're even more powerful when stakeholders across the business have an opportunity to participate in them.
Not only will this help bridge gaps between user needs and business goals, but it will also see you practice presenting your UX case, validating your decisions, and fielding (difficult) questions from stakeholders who aren’t as familiar with UX.
It’s also a great way to increase visibility across teams and build trust among decision-makers in the organization. After all, UX shouldn’t be an echo chamber!
5. Utilize the power of personas
When clashing with business leaders about product or features, it often helps to have a tangible reference point for the one thing that unites both business and UX teams: The user. (After all, every business needs users to survive).
User personas can bring design and business development teams together, facilitating those all-important discussions about product enhancements and feature rollouts—and re-centering the conversation when discussing priorities.
Carefully crafted personas based on real data are the golden ticket to bridging the gap between business objectives and user needs.
To go beyond designing great products, and actually drive tangible results for your organization, it’s worth taking the time to develop a strong business mindset. Sharpening your business knowledge won’t just help you become a better designer—it’ll also open up opportunities for career growth down the line.
If you’re looking for a program that’ll see you become a well-rounded, business-minded UX designer, check out our online UX Academy. With a rigorous curriculum and network of industry-leading mentors, you’ll be transformed from complete beginner to job-ready designer in a matter of months.