Many of my initial meetings with clients start with something like, “our software is clunky, outdated and needs a facelift.”
I get it. The user interface (UI) is what everyone sees first.
When I hear this, I ask a series of questions that help me uncover whether a new paint job (repairing UI) will really solve their problems. Your issue could be “outdated” or “clunky” UI, but this typically stems from deeper issues related to your business.
Take lifestyle TV shows for example. Shows like What Not to Wear, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Restaurant Impossible and The Profit all end in tears. Why? Because the work of these designers and consultants is bigger than simply updating the outward appearance of someone’s outfit, home, business or restaurant. The shows focus on deeper issues that uncover how the person, home or business got to where they are today — and that is where the consultant begins. They start on the surface, then work backwards through their business or personal life to understand how they got to where they are.
Just like the subjects of these shows, most software renovation efforts start because the product looks outdated and works poorly. But a successful renovation will uncover deeper issues and greater opportunities.
In this article, I’ll work backward from usability to identify the ways outdated software can negatively affect a business, starting with problems affecting users and moving to sales and marketing. Then, I’ll dive into internal development to show the interrelated problems (and opportunities) that outdated software creates for businesses. Finally, I’ll pose some solutions.
Problem 1: Usability is a Recurring Issue
Usage and adoption are leading indicators of deeper usability problems.
Decreasing usage means your users are likely accomplishing their goals without your software. Less activity is bad for business.
Declining user adoption can be a bad sign. If you haven’t improved onboarding or prioritized first interactions, then you’re probably wasting resources manually onboarding your users and responding to service requests.
Over time, users get smarter and raise their product standards. If you don’t innovate and modernize, they will leave you behind.
How to Diagnose Usability Problems
- Are your daily active users decreasing?
- How often are users complaining about your UI?
- Are customer support calls increasing?
- Can users onboard themselves or do they require customer support?
Problem 2: Sales is Struggling to Tell a Compelling Story
If someone is using your product, they were willing to pay for it. But outdated UI might discourage anyone else from purchasing your product.
An outdated product is difficult to sell. Even if you’re industry is new to tech, you’re still competing with other more beautiful apps your potential customers use.
However, visuals are only the tip of the iceberg. Outdated UX will often mean your product is inefficient, disorganized and cumbersome to use.
Imagine a salesperson giving a demo of a task that should only require one screen, but instead the user must click several times, navigating a dozen form fields. If the demo doesn’t convey ease-of-use, the product won’t sell.
How to Diagnose Sales Issues
- Are you losing deals to new competitors?
- Are salespeople struggling to demo the product?
Problem 3: Your Marketing Efforts are Evolving, but Your Product is Not
If someone is talking to sales, they’ve interacted with your marketing in some way. But what about potential leads that never make it out of your marketing funnel? There is probably a disconnect between your marketing strategy and your outdated product.
Your software becomes out of date when it no longer aligns with your business strategy.
This could be happening because:
- You’re moving upstream for larger customers.
- You’re moving into a new market completely.
- You’re increasing share of your existing market.
An outdated product will cause challenges for marketing. As your marketing evolves, the product must evolve with it. Just as visuals help salespeople, they will also help marketing. But the product design must enable marketing to tell your story to new markets.
How to Diagnose Problems with Product Marketing
- Are you going after new markets?
- Have you updated your messaging?
Problem 4: Adding New Features is Costly
Before anyone can use your software, they must first buy it. If they bought it, they’ve engaged with your marketing, meaning you built something worthy of marketing.
Ironically, you become outdated by becoming successful. As time goes on, your product gets harder (and more expensive) to improve. This puts a roadblock in front of your business’ future. If you can’t improve your product, you can’t grow your business.
Great UX and product management processes ensure your product grows with your business.
Product management finds harmony between product maintenance and new features. Without effective product management, you may notice the prioritization of maintenance over new features. Your product will become outdated when it neglects the needs your users are facing right now.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of items in your backlog, product management will prioritize the right initiatives for your business strategy.
Quality UX supports product management. A better-designed product is easier to build and test. Once it’s in market, it’s easier to fix. Most designers agree that great design is usable and beautiful. But when you think of UX as a strategic differentiator and pair it with product management, it’s a multiplier.
How to Diagnose UX and PM Issues
- How long does it take to plan and build new features?
- Do defects and customer support requests dominate your backlog?
- Are you regularly designing next-generation concepts?
Identifying outdated software starts with what users see. The root of the problem, however, is far deeper.
By working backward from usability to sales and marketing, and product management and UX, you’ll find a clearer picture of your product’s biggest challenges.
Ready to update your product? Learn how we can help.