Book Review: Institutionalization of UX

With the trends towards multiple screens for software applications and the success of Apple, the notion of User eXperience (UX) has gained a better visibility and recognition in the world of software development. The book “Institutionalization of UX” proposes a set of practices to institutionalize user experience design in software development organization.

As stated at the beginning of the book, the goal is to “change your organization’s focus from building lots of functions to meeting user needs.” This is done by a step-by-step approach that deals with all aspects of this transformational journey. The book distills a lot of interesting practices, and the authors integrate some external contributors that provide their own practical views on specific topics.

A summary at the beginning of each chapter allows getting a quick grasp of its content. I found however that the authors were making sometimes too many references to their own company, a firm doing consulting work in the UX field. This sometimes puts an unnecessary white paper flavor on what is a very good material.

As the main focus of this book is on the transformation of organizations towards user-centered design, the book “Institutionalization of UX” is more targeting software development managers. I will however recommend it to any software developer or project manager that what to have a better understanding of the issues related to user experience (UX) and how to integrate them in their software development process.

Reference: “Institutionalization of UX”, Eric Schaffer and Apala Lahiri, Addison-Wesley

Book Review: Institutionalization of UX


Usability is now a hygiene factor – to be competitive, most organizations must understand how to engineer persuasion into their digital systems. In turn, we need a whole new set of methods and insights that let us systematically design for engagement, psychological influence, and customer commitment.

It isn’t enough to just apply standard user experience design techniques such as user experience design testing, because just applying techniques does not address the underlying issue. There is still a need to change the focus away from functionality. Software developers often build applications that have unneeded functions. They focus on completing a checklist of features for each product. Unfortunately, a clutter of irrelevant features makes the product harder to use. The whole focus of the development team is on creating all these functions on time, but if those functions are not needed or cannot be used, is timeliness so important?

We need a simple story. If you can’t tell the user where to go for which activities in a single breath, then you have a problem.

Without a full user-centered process, performing a usability test at the end of the development process merely serves to highlight the unacceptable nature of the design. It’s a sad and frustrating result, but there is usually little that can be done except to release the poor design.