Business Goals vs. User Goals: Striking a Balance

The foundations of success for any digital product

Rick Mess       |       December 24, 2021

Whose goals does UX/UI serve?

Many people think that UX/UI is a way to help users achieve their goals and make them happy. Indeed, the designers themselves passionately believe it to be true and never miss a chance to talk about it.

But this misconception comes at a great expense for the business. Let’s look at things as they really are.

UX/UI is a bridge between business and clients. Its purpose is to help the business achieve its goals.

UX/UI helps your business grow by creating a memorable and recognizable brand, expanding your audience, increasing conversion rates, improving user retention and loyalty, and helping you collect and analyze data.

A solid bridge must rest on identical, symmetrical, and well-balanced supports. If one support is sturdy and the other is weak, the bridge will collapse. Nobody builds bridges like that in real life. But businesspeople erect crooked bridges all the time on the Internet. And they don’t even realize that something is wrong.

What makes a bridge crooked?

1. Imbalance toward users

User goals are important, but they are secondary. Without achieving the goals of your users, you cannot achieve the goals of your company. Designers typically put all effort into satisfying users, inadvertently putting business goals on the backburner. It’s no surprise that designers are often called “users’ advocates.” Here’s what the result of their advocacy looks like:

2. Imbalance toward business

This is the other extreme. When a businessman has a good grasp of what UX/UI is capable of, he is often tempted to use this knowledge unethically. User interactions with the product morph into data collection, manipulative product pushing, and fostering a dependency that is closer to drug addiction than to healthy business practices. The users are exploited as an audience that disseminates certain information. This approach is typical of the companies that value their business above all else.

3. Perfect balance

Data collection, advertising on social media platforms, or creating engaging products is a common practice. No business can avoid them. But to establish effective interaction, business goals and user goals need to be balanced. What you need is a win-win solution that rewards both sides. Otherwise your bridge will sag.

Client-oriented design is considered the optimum solution for small companies, up-and-coming startups, consumer goods, or novel and unusual products. This is true, but user centricity must not come at the expense of business interests. There’s nothing wrong with positioning your company as a business that focuses on the wellbeing of its clients, as long as you don’t lose sight of your goals.

Circle In — Branding & Web Design

Business-oriented design, in its turn, does not imply that the company only cares about profits. It’s design that works toward the brand’s image, making it more respectable and trustworthy in the eyes of both partners and clients. It’s UX/UI that helps improve business processes within the company, make the company’s goals clear and explicit, increase the employees’ loyalty and motivation.

Any business needs to build two equally sturdy abutments: one to support the company and the other to support the consumers. This is the foundation of perfect balance.

It’s important to adhere to the fundamental principle of providing equal support to business goals and user goals. An imbalance in either direction could be fatal. You can always emphasize either of the supports. Imagine painting one of the pillars a bright color. It would make it more noticeable to the audience without impacting its bearing capacity.

Business goals and user goals can sometimes be contradictory. In that case, you need to find a compromise to keep the balance.

4. Data collection

To solve any problem, you need input data. Digital products often turn out to be ineffective just because their creators were not provided all the necessary information by their clients.

Here are some common reasons for that:

1. The client only has a vague vision of his business prospects and has no clearly established goals and strategies.

2. The client does not know what marketing data are required to design a digital product.

3. The client fails to provide complete information and sets arbitrary requirements with no basis in marketing research.

4. The client provides only a minimum of information because he is hesitant to share it.

If you fail to provide the designers with complete information regarding your business, its goals and mission, and your current and future objectives, the resulting digital product will not be effective.

The designers can gather their own data on your target audience to create a user-oriented product. But there is no way for them to gather data on your business and its goals. They will have to resort to guesswork or emulating your competitors, and that’s never a good idea.

You don’t need to provide any sensitive data. Most of these things are freely published in corporate brand books.

If you are just starting out and don’t have a clear view of some aspects, working with designers will help you see them better and arrive at some useful ideas and solutions.

When designers understand the essence and goals of your business, they can help create a unique company image that will make it be noticed, trusted, and recognized by consumers. This can’t be done unless they know what your business is and what goals it is pursuing.

Creating an effective digital product requires maximum information on:

- the company, its mission, its current and future goals;

- the product / service and its goals;

- the audience and its goals.

5. USP is the central bridge support

Continuing with the bridge analogy, UX/UI needs another, central support. The unique selling proposition is between the business and the clients. This is what the user comes for. On the one hand, the USP characterizes your business, and on the other, it affects the consumer.

This support is especially dependent on good design. The selling proposition is the first thing people see and judge. Design draws their attention to the selling proposition, makes it unique and relevant, highlights its advantages, and presents it in the best possible light. But even the best design in the world cannot affect the actual quality of the product or service. Strengthening this support is up to you.

6. Action goals

If a goal does not encourage action, then it’s either poorly defined or not a goal at all. A goal must excite the imagination and galvanize into action.

This applies to both business goals and user goals.

If everything is done right, then every time the user accomplishes their goals, the business wins as well. Conversely, when business goals are achieved, it strengthens the company, expands the audience, and fosters client loyalty.

Action goals:

- have a motivational core;

- imply a solution to problems;

- are emotionally exciting.

Design can accomplish all these tasks as long as it has all the input data: information about the company, the product, and the audience. Design spans the bridge supports, connecting business interests to user interests. But before construction can begin, the business owner must lay the foundations for the supports. He has to realize that both supports are equally important. It’s not a good idea to strengthen the User abutment and leave the Business abutment lacking sufficient brickwork, or vice versa.

7. Maintaining the supports

In reality, maintaining all business supports equally is hard. The balance can shift from time to time. You have to be aware which support needs attending to at the moment. To do that, you need to test your product and look for weak spots. Maybe you need a redesign, a UX improvement, or a visual upgrade of the selling proposition.

The most important thing is knowing what needs work and where to channel your efforts to keep the entire structure stable.

In conclusion: How to accomplish business goals and user goals

- Set business goals and user goals.

- Make these goals clear to project designers.

- Remember the “perfect bridge” and all its supports. Devote as much work to the company’s image as to the product and user interests.

- Maintain a balance between business goals, user goals, and product goals so that the bridge does not become crooked at any point.

- Work with designers who understand the importance of all goals and are willing to seek a compromise solution.