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As a UX designers we try to solve problems in the best way for our users. When I recently enjoyed the first vacation with our newborn we encountered bad UX in the favor of business opportunities. It was clear fight User Experience vs. Sales. Here’s the story.

What made me think

Our vacation at a Center Parc in Belgium and what I found in our cottage made me think about the eternal battle between Sales and UX.

We rented a cottage with 100% self-service. This means you have a kitchen to cook your meals, if you don’t go to one of the restaurants in the surrounding park. Of course this park also offers a super market where you can buy everything you need. And that’s exactly the topic!

The Dishwasher-Dilemma

As mentioned the rented cottage runs on a self-service. You do the dishes on your own. That’s nothing to complain about. It’s part of the experience. When moving into your cottage you are greeted with a nice letter and some amenities. These include two dishwasher tabs. This is cool. You can start right away and clean up after brewing the first coffee.

But wait. Only two tabs for the complete week? Exactly! I can’t imaging a family running the dishwasher only two times in that week of vacation. So after the second dishwasher run you find yourself at the super market buying a large package of dishwasher tabs. Boom, they got you. You just added your first add-on to your vacation.
User Experience Level: Quite low. They could have simply supply you with a few more of these tabs, right?

Would it cost so much for the park to give you more tabs and directly increase your user experience? Probably not. But from a business perspective this makes totally sense. Give them two and they will buy a large package. Ever heard the words “The First One Is Free”?

In our case we’ve bought the large package, used just a few of the tabs and brought the rest of the package back home where it now waits to be used next to the tabs that we already own.

Kitchen Tool Time

Center Parc uses this UX vs. Sales tactic not only when it comes to dishwasher tabs. You are also provided with kitchen tools, pans and pots. All of them are functional and sufficient. But they aren’t great to work and cook with.

But guess what – you can buy better kitchen tools and better pans at the on-site super market!

I could now continue the list of things you can buy at the market that could also be easily provided by the park for a better user experience. This list could include salt & pepper, for example.

Sales over User Experience

What these examples show is that you can use bad user experience, or to be fair, sufficient user experience for generating revenue.

The big question remaining: Is this worth it?

“Would you implement a bad user experience if it generates more revenue?” Click To Tweet

I don’t want to pull myself out of this issue. In my prior company we offered a lot of features that would have been great for all users only for the premium ones. Because it gave us a chance to sell more of the premium-packages. And we also did it with knowing that the user experience of some of our users would suffer.

Finding the right balance

The key is finding the right balance between sales opportunities and user experience. If you can make them work together, or even generate more revenue through a better UX that’s great. But if there is a huge chance for a new revenue channel by decreasing the user experience you should also consider it as worthy.

Fact is that most UX designers work in companies that have to make money. And the best user experience of a product does not pay the bills.

“UX does not pay the bills. Revenue does.” Click To Tweet

But always keep in mind that a bad user experience harms your product, harms your brand, harms your revenue.

Revenue vs. Recommendations

Let’s picture the story I told about the Center Parc in another way. Let’s say I arrived and found enough dishwasher tabs to use the full week of vacation. And let’s also assume that the pots, pans and kitchen tools would have been top-notch.

Boy would I tell my friends to book their next vacation in such a park! I wonder if this would generate more revenue than a package of dishwasher tabs …

tl;dr:

It’s sometimes okay to trade in some good user experience for sales opportunities. But you have to keep in mind how much revenue good UX can generate.

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Also published on Medium.