Employee experience.

By Filippo Conforti on February 20, 2024

Everyone talks about customer experience, and there's a reason for that. Ultimately, everything we do is aimed at optimizing the customer's experience, with the goal of increasing their willingness to buy. It is important to understand, however, that if the goal is the customer experience, the means to get there involve dozens of factors, like technology, processes, budgets, and people.

When it comes to people, their experience with the tools is crucial. Developers are concerned about the developer experience. They want modern tools, powerful APIs, and cutting-edge frameworks. Since the last few years, the developer experience has gained more and more importance, including during the decision-making process when buying new software. Developers like me couldn't be happier about this. As well as because I believe there is a strong relationship between the developer experience and the customer experience. A happy developer is always a more productive developer, who ships features faster and better.

What's still missing, in my opinion, is the business user experience. Let's call it the employee experience. Basically, how easy and smooth is the user experience of the backend tools, the ones used daily to handle things like content and catalog management, promotions, site publishing, customer support, etc.

Software vendors and developers often ignore the backend user interface since it doesn't directly affect the customer. In reality, a bad user experience on the backend hurts the frontend. Using a complex or slow tool will make a backend user update a website less often. More errors will propagate to the frontend, like wrong product images, prices, promotions. Data that is inconsistent across different markets. Slower customer service or other problems.

In the same way that technical debt can put your business at risk, a bad employee experience can create a lot of inefficiency that will hurt sales. So investing in the employee experience is just another way to invest in the customer experience. I think we're all on board with that.

Problems arise when employees are prioritized over customers. Sometimes business users make tech and process decisions based on their daily experience rather than the potential benefits for the company. Many people fall into this trap when they don't want to change how they work just because they have to learn a new tool, regardless of how beneficial it will be for the company. New things get pushed back because they require some changes, and learning something new is just perceived as more work.

In a practical example, the employee experience might be overvalued, at the expense of the customer experience, when deciding whether to do static site generation or not. A pure Jamstack approach to ecommerce development gets harder as the catalog size grows, which increases the time required for building the site.

A small catalog can be published statically in a few minutes, which is fine with business users. By contrast, publishing a catalog of hundreds of thousands of products using static site generation can take a long time. Therefore, republishing a catalog can take tens of minutes, which is unacceptable. Users freak out about such a long publishing process, so developers usually turn to server-side generation.

Despite the fact that this makes sense, I think the impact of such an architectural choice is often underestimated. The point is that nothing compares to a static ecommerce website delivered through a CDN, in terms of performance, scalability, and security. Even though I understand the concern about a lengthy publishing process, as a business owner I'd probably accept the trade off if it meant more revenues. In addition, there are hybrid approaches to all static or all dynamic. The trade off could be evaluated, and I'm sure many business users would accept a longer build time for better site performance.

Overall, I think employee experience is extremely relevant, but only if it's not prioritized over customer experience. When that's the case, it's a good idea to look at the processes from a broader perspective, which may make some people happier than others. Just make sure you don't take the wrong architectural decisions based on some limited view of one person.

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