The Inverted UX Funnel: Or The Cost/Benefit Of UX Work

The Inverted UX Funnel: Or The Cost/Benefit Of UX Work

Today I came back from a lunch where I talked with a potential client about their product. This was a first conversation so most of the time was spent discussing what their software and business was and what I could do to help improve the user experience. I enjoy these conversations as we’re not getting in much detail so it gives me a good opportunity to describe the whole UX process as it works the most effective. We’re not cutting corners yet or trying to do two things combined into one, all to save time or cost and ultimately reducing the value of what we could bring. All good there.

At some point in the conversation, the VP engineering brought up the point of how important the user experience was for their product. He gauged that it was perhaps the fourth or fifth most important thing. And after listening to their top three product values I could see what he meant. This was middleware, not much of a real user experience and the experience that was there in the configuration tool had a small devoted user base. Making this user base happier has obvious benefits, but during this lunch I found myself more than once making the case to perhaps not spend much on UX work at all. Looking at the benefit of a decently executed UX process, I started to question if it would have the return that they were looking for. In the end I did see the benefits for the product, but it became clear that not the full package was needed.

I made the comment that there is an inverted funnel, if you will, of UX Cost/Benefit, where it is costlier to make an experience work for a larger user base. And inversely, the smaller the user base, the lower the UX investment and even potential benefit (to a degree, not in all cases, the usual caveats).

Now you may read the above and think: right, exactly, not much real news here. But what made me think during this lunch is that working in the UX space, day in and day out, creates sometimes the tunnel vision that I’d accuse others of having. The tunnel vision that most, if not all, product experiences out there need our help. In big heaps preferably. With a complete approach most of the time. It’s this solution proclamation, without truly listening to the situation at hand, that can get honourable UX folks into trouble.

I’ll take a healthy step back the next time I’m having a sales conversation; it could well serve my client better in the end.

Tedde van Gelderen  is President at Akendi, a firm dedicated to creating intentional experiences through end-to-end experience design. To learn more about Akendi, email us at or visit

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