A growing body of research demonstrates that great UX designers have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and profitability. Last year, data collected by the software developer UserZoom revealed that 70% of enterprise CEOs now see UX as a competitive differentiator, an 18% rise from 2018. That figure is likely to have risen further in the wake of Covid-19, as executives see the critical role of design in the way customers interact digitally with their company.
But while the pandemic has won the debate for design, it has also thinned budgets and put top UX teams out of reach. The median salary for a UX designer in the United States is $98,000, according to Burning Glass, the analytics software company. Given that predicament, the Mexican city of Guadalajara is emerging as a leading destination for sourcing top UX talent.
“I see is a lot of opportunity here,” said Clara Balderas, the lead UX designer at the software and product delivery company Wizeline. “It is one of the largest cities in the country and has a wide educational offer. At least in terms of the IT industry, it is one of the best places to work in Mexico.”
Design Thinking: A Long-Overlooked Approach
While tech giants such as Apple built their brand around an elegant aesthetic, smooth and seamless user-interaction is far from the established standard. So-called “pain points” abound in modern tech. User interfaces confuse and frustrate customers. Sign up forms request an overwhelming amount of information. Developers fail to tailor content specifically to mobile or web.
A lack of coherent design across products and services is another common problem. Only 14% of businesses are design-integrated, according to Limina, a US-based design consultancy. Such inconsistencies can confuse customers, complicate transactions and hurt the brand image.
Of course, confused or frustrated customers are bad news for business – but designers have had to work hard to convince executives of this. Many business leaders still view UX design as an intangible and impossible-to-quantify phenomenon. In fact, UX is so underappreciated that many executives confuse it with the related field of UI design (user interface design). The latter relates to the images and text that the user sees on the screen. Technically, UI is just an element of UX – which focuses on the broader task of reducing pain points and increasing usability.
Today, the evidence for the business value of strong UX is overwhelming, and many companies are finally waking up to the commercial importance of design.
“A few years ago, UX was hardly recognized as something fundamental to the design and development of digital products,” Balderas said. “It has changed for the better, although there is still a long way to go.”
Guadalajara’s Design Scene
While attitudes in the C-suite may still take time to change, analysts agree that UX design is a burgeoning field. The Nielsen Norman Group, a UX consulting firm, estimates that there will be 100 million UX professionals in the world by 2050. The role that the Nearshore region will take in this future remains to be seen. However, Guadalajara locals are confident of the city’s potential.
“Guadalajara has great talent in terms of design,” said Brenda Contreras, a UX designer and researcher at Grupo Tress Internacional, a firm that develops technology to support the administration of human resources. According to Contreras, there is a growing understanding in the city’s tech community that “usability is not about attractiveness, but about functionality.”
Guadalajara, the capital of the state of Jalisco, has long been considered one of the most important tech hubs in the Americas. Last year, Google, Hewlett Packard, Oracle and other major players announced plans to invest $222 million dollars in Jalisco. The state’s technology sector already accounts for 125,000 jobs and its population of IT graduates is growing year-on-year.
Despite this, there are still no college degrees on offer that focus on UX design. Few educational institutions even include UX as part of their programs. While such courses would strengthen the city’s profile as a UX hub, the lack of formal training has the unintended consequence of opening the area to people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Wizeline currently employs UX designers who trained as graphic designers, industrial engineers and even journalists.
“UX is a broad discipline that encompasses various areas,” Balderas said. “Within those areas there are people who may not be programmers or designers… People with a background in humanities are welcome to UX.”
UX Design Headaches
Nearshore UX teams are not protected from the challenges facing designers in other parts of the world. Both remote working and the need to convince clients that great design makes business sense are common problems, regardless of location.
Work-from-home arrangements have been a greater challenge for UX than for most other tech workers, because collaboration is a defining feature of their process. Designers have had to adapt to new working methods within teams. Clients have been unable to visit designers in person and have had to rely on videoconferencing to track progress on projects.
“With the pandemic, the challenge is greater,” Contreras said. “We have continual video calls and we send reports on how the project is developing. It can be done, but constant communication is necessary.”
Effective collaboration between outsourced design teams and clients also requires openness and adaptability – on both sides. UX designers are trained to identify pain points in software. However, some companies are reluctant to receive negative feedback.
“Companies or clients sometimes have a very clear idea of what product they want and the only thing they are looking for is someone to develop it,” Balderas said. “Our job is to make them see that the value of design goes beyond the layout. Our work is about building solutions that respond to problems. In many ways, we are asking them to take a step back.”
What does it take achieve great outcomes in Nearshore services? If you would like to share an exciting case study or news story drop me a note — Steve Woodman, Managing Editor