The buzzword “UX” has been wholeheartedly embraced in the marketing vocabulary. Countless articles have been written about UX as a brand differentiator.1,2,3 I consistently hear from business leaders about the need to understand users’ motivations in order to create seamless experiences. So, it’s no surprise that UX methods are an essential part of any business strategy, right?

Wrong. Marketers often confuse focus groups with user research, believing that reactions to adlobs will help them understand how users will use a product to complete tasks. They also confuse aesthetics with usability. True, aesthetics can contribute to perceived ease-of-use; however, they alone cannot increase task completion rate. The result is that UX professionals are often demoted to documentation creators whose sole purpose is to interpret clients’ instructions as wireframes to be delivered to art directors and copywriters. It should come as no surprise that clients fail to articulate useful performance metrics that ladder up to user goals and business objectives.

I can think of a few explanations for this confusion about the (admittedly broad) UX profession, its methods, and capabilities: 1) they are not aware of the full scope of UX services; 2) they are aware but don’t have an accurate conception, through misunderstanding or miseducation; 3) they do not, or refuse to, understand the true value of UX services.

Whatever the reason, a collaborative approach to (re)education is needed. I’ve done enough “UX roadshows” to finally learn that they don’t work. Our stakeholders (and their stakeholders) need to experience a human-centered design process to be convinced of the utility and value of UX methods.

Give UX a Little XOXO

Teams can better include UX in projects with pharma clients by:

  • Conducting a design sprint on a new or spec project with a cross-functional internal team—we need to equip our colleagues with firsthand knowledge to sell UX services.
  • Co-creating personas with sales teams, researchers, and marketing clients.
  • Performing stakeholder interviews with clients and legal teams to understand their needs and hesitations.
  • Inviting stakeholders (especially legal teams) to observe user testing on working prototypes, to validate the usability and clarity of our interpretations of FDA guidelines.
  • Holding design thinking workshops with clients to design a solution together.
  • Most importantly, engaging UX staff at project initiation and kickoffs to benefit from their requirements-gathering skills and strategic holistic thinking.

These UX research and strategy methods expose actual business and user needs. They uncover the reasons “why” to create a product, prioritize a feature, or serve a particular user. UX is here to help you build a solid foundation and ensure every product is used and enjoyed by your customer.4


  • Jessica Haas

    Jessica Haas is Senior UX Designer of Greater Than One. Jessica is a UX designer and researcher with a decade of experience creating digital experiences for clients including Merck, Honeywell, and State Farm, among others. Jessica specializes in information architecture, usability, and creating empathy for users.


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