UX > EX: the painful truth about customer obsession

Publishing this memo I shared with Teamfellows.

Everyone agrees with good-sounding principles until they experience their downsides.

“Working out is healthy!” Haha, yes! Yes!

“So hit the gym!” Well this sucks.

“Hire slow!” Yes! Yes!

“There’s this seat you’re dying to fill. And it’s going to remain empty for at least six more months, because you want to find the perfect person for it.” Oh.

One such example on my mind these days is the principle of “customer obsession.” It’s hard to disagree — of course we should serve our customers!

But then the rubber meets the road. “We have to delay this launch for another two weeks, because it doesn’t quite meet our bar yet.” Ah.

The most compressed expression of this idea is “UX > EX”, pronounced “UX is greater than EX.” It means that user experience is more important than employee experience.

Yes, optimizing for the customer does make your life harder, which is why they pay you. So when you find a new way to make the customer’s life easier at the expense of your own, you should celebrate — you just found a way to make more money!

In fact, the greater the pain, the more you should celebrate — not just because you found a big problem to solve for customers, but also because there’s a place where competitors won’t be able to follow you.

This is a way to leave behind the ones who are less customer obsessed, have less tolerance for pain, or have been more compromising in their hiring — the ones who put EX before UX.