Known user experience issues that have not
yet been fixed are referred to as UX debt. If you do user research, collect analytics,
or listen to any customer support channels you have UX debt. There are four important things teams should
be doing related to UX debt: acknowledge that it exists, track it, communicate it, and plan
to fix it. When we choose to not fix UX issues, we can
do it for a few reasons; one: we ran out of time… or we prioritized other things
over fixing usability issues. Development teams often defer problems for
good or not so good reasons. But there’s a big difference between deferring
an issue and pretending it doesn’t exist, or forgetting that we know about it. So, we want to track issues. To keep track of UX debt, add items directly
to the backlog, a spreadsheet, a database or your teams’ preferred system. Adding items to the backlog works well for
teams that have organized backlogs with clear severity indicators and prioritization processes. However, for larger organizations that have
many user stories and product-backlog items, adding UX debt directly to the backlog could
mean it gets lost or continually deprioritized in favor of new features and functionality. In this case, use a spreadsheet to prioritize
items, before adding them to the backlog. Use a prioritization matrix in the form of
a scatter plot to see where the issues fall on the dimensions of user value and effort
to fix. This visualization can help you rank issues
and communicate progress in cleaning up UX debt to stakeholders and leadership over time. Communicating is necessary because the team
needs to know the debt exists and that they will all be on the hook the next time they
redesign the product to fix it. Giving access to backlogs and databases that
store the issues, sharing charts of issues by severity and status, and speaking the same
language as the rest of the development organization are all key things to do. It’s possible to fix UX debt while still making
overall improvements to your digital products. One approach is to dedicate a specific number
of story points to fix UX debt during each sprint or every other sprint. The number of story points can fluctuate over
time depending on the team’s workload, but try to address at least one or two UX-debt
items per sprint, preferably more if bandwidth allows. UX debt isn’t always avoidable, but teams
can acknowledge and organize it. Additionally, collaborating around how to fix it
will preserve the integrity of their digital products.