Data and User Experience: Two ends of the spectrum

Every product that you build has to be used by people.

This is irrespective of “who may pay for the product“. This is an often brought up topic of “User vs Customer“. And if the product is used only by machines and not by real people, then it’s perhaps best to call it “technology”.

As far as technology products are concerned, a significant factor of differentiation they claim and deliver on is by leveraging data about usage and user behavior. And in a product team, the cycle goes this way:

  • Product Manager thinks up the product (you can assume that in all these steps, others also contribute meaningfully, as product creation is both an intensely cerebral and collaborative exercise)
  • Designer helps visualize the user experience
  • Engineers code it and get it ready for prime time

The plot:

1. Roll out the current version of your product
2. Get users to use your product, engage with it and contribute inputs (read Data)
3. Collect usage and behavior data, analyze it and generate ideas for the future features
4. Design & develop the new features
5. Start from Step 1 again

If you notice, in this iterative and cyclical process, the two constants are Design new features (UX) and Collect more data. While this cycle goes on, imagine the various changes that happen to your company:

• People added/removed
• Infrastructure modified (change offices/locations etc)
• Technologies changed/added
• Investors changed/added
• Markets discovered/validated
• Pivots created/executed/dropped
• And the list can continue

But the core 2 tasks remain: Design UX for your user, Collect Data from your user, both of them aimed to improve their value proposition. This prompts me to call Data & UX as the two ends of the spectrum of building a tech company. It’s very interesting to note that if Data connotes Scale, UX connotes Empathy. To build a successful company, I imagine that one needs both Scale and Empathy and not just one of them.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.