User Experience Maturity Model. Grow to Become User-Centered Company
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Have you ever heard of a company whose principal values are serving users and providing them the best experience possible? Well, that is literally every company’s “mission”, as stated on their websites. In reality, most of them are far from that vision.
As a design agency, we worship the principles of user-centered design and believe it can save the world (or at least some businesses). UX maturity is the marker of how close a company is to that ideal.
User experience maturity is a long process that can take years, and it is important to know the milestones on this long road. Do you know what level of UX maturity are you at? How can you grow? Let’s start from the beginning.
What is a UX maturity model?
To evaluate how close the company is to the ideals of user-centered design, you have to find out its position on the UX maturity scale. This is what the UX maturity model is made for.
There are various UX maturity models. In 2006, Jacob Nielsen of Nielsen Norman Group developed one of the most common scales of 8 levels. Recently, in 2021, the NNG researchers came up with a new model, this time of only 6 levels.
Knowing your place on the scale is not just a theoretical piece of information. The UX maturity model indicates the next step and explains how to get there.
Estimating the level of your own team is tricky. Try to think of the real situation, not the desired one. Here is what to look at when evaluating UX maturity:
Now, let’s see all the levels of UX maturity model in detail:
The first level might as well be called level zero. There’s not much to explain. At this point, no one in the company cares about user research.
Being so user ignorant is a characteristic of companies from the dawn of the computer age when the UX was not a thing. However, in some cases, modern startups also neglect user experience, especially when they believe that their cutting-edge tech innovation has such a high value to the users that usability doesn’t matter much.
In some cases, there are few people in the company who are aware of user experience and try to apply some of its principles by testing the products on themselves.
“Eating dog food”, a process when team members use their own products at early prototype stages, is a common way of testing that helps to bring up the bugs fast and efficiently. However, if this is the only user testing method you are using, the results are likely to be biased.
Orientation on team members works pretty well when they fall into the user persona of the product. In other cases, the reactions of developers and real users can be drastically different. Sadly, many people don’t realize it until they see the results of real UX research.
Companies stay at this stage until some of the executives learn about UX and decide to implement some practices in their work, or an external consultant brings up the importance of user research when asked to assess why the product fails at attracting customers.
Moving to this stage means that user experience maturity has reached that level when it takes into account actual users. The efforts are still very small and unsystematic, but it is a step forward. And even a small effort can make a big difference when we are talking about user experience.
Some of the team members run usability research to test a new feature, and in most cases, it has a surprisingly tangible effect. However, usability testing still remains the main focus of UX research and often takes place at the late stages of the design process, which means that team members would be more hesitant to change the design according to the findings of testing. This way, the company misses on many benefits of the research.
At some point, when the effects start accumulating and the decision-makers decide to invest in UX intentionally, the company is ready to move to the next level:
User experience starts taking its place in the company when dedicated UX professionals are hired. Yet, at this stage user research is a bit random and chaotic. It lacks processes and structure. Whenever there is a shortage of time or resources, UX work is just skipped.
To grow from this stage on, companies need to educate all team members about the importance of user experience, make it a part of company values, priorities, and standard processes.
At this stage, no one in the company can ignore users (or at least they have to pretend they care). It marks the appearance of a separate team of UX professionals who collaborate with each other, share their findings, and keep track of all user experience-related processes going on in the company.
UX team members organize their work in a way that creates a more complex and comprehensive vision of the user experience of the whole product or different products.
Structured work on user experience makes room for systematic processing of the information, which allows UX researchers to develop best practices based on previous research results and build standards of the research process on the experience that is already existing in the company.
In smaller companies, where team size and the product volume does not require a whole team of UX researchers, this level of maturity can be diagnozed by presence of established user experience practices and guidelines. Even if there is no space for a researcher, UI/UX designers can mark a high level of UX maturity by dedicating a large chunk of work to user research (while using various UX research methods apart from usability testing).
Overall, the 4th stage is a breaking point for UX maturity: at this level, top management is absolutely aware of the need for UX research work and the shift to the next level is a question of time (and efforts of demonstrating the impact of research).
With time, user experience strategies and processes refine and reach new levels of efficiency. The work follows well-beaten paths, thus creating UX professionals some space for experimenting and finding new methods to incorporate into their practices.
Effective work of the UX team makes the business benefits of user research absolutely clear and data-proven.
An important feature of integrated UX is its connection to key business metrics: the company starts defining its success based on the quality of user experience, among other parameters.
The next step roots UX practices deeply in different stages of the design process. Product managers are willing to run user research before even starting the design, and continue monitoring the results after the launch of the product. This is where design finally gets to embody the principles of design thinking in real life. The design process becomes user-centered and the team fully understands the importance of iterations.
When the company becomes user-driven, it means that users can be prioritized upon increasing revenue. Is that even possible? Well, some companies claim it is. However, many companies would reach as high as level 5 of the UX maturity scale — and that’s totally fine.
How do you move to the next level? A real story
Some people think that the ones responsible for educating product managers about the importance of user experience are UX designers, while others believe that any professional team lead and decision-maker has to know it well and raise the level of UX maturity of the team members and the company as a whole.
As a SaaS design agency, we see different levels of UX maturity in our client companies. Our designers always work very closely with the team, so everybody can watch our design process closely, witnessing the impact of user research. Naturally, the client team can level up in their design maturity when working with people dedicated to user-centered design.
However, for the success of this process, there has to be a motivated person on the client’s side. This is what happened when we were working with Acadeum, an edu tech app.
In the beginning of our collaboration, the CTO said that he expected the design culture in their company to rise during our cooperation. Before that, they had almost no understanding of the design process. So we decided to make a presentation of our process, conduct workshops in Miro, write follow-ups of meetings to keep all the stakeholders on track.
All these activities helped Acadeum to move on the scale of the UX maturity model. After reaching a certain milestone in the product, we had a retrospective discussing all the positive and negative moments in our work. Based on that, we made conclusions about our future work, too.
As a result, we matured along with our clients. Nothing makes you as convinced about the importance of user experience as having to convince others about it.
Conclusion. What makes UX maturity?
If you are a product manager planning the UX growth of your company, you may think that since you have all the information at hand, you can jump directly to stage 6 or at least 4 and save a big deal of time. Can you?
Well, there’s no way we'd say it is impossible. Aim for the stars, and you'll get to level 3 (maybe). What's important is to be as objective as possible when evaluating the level of UX maturity of the company.
Having a team of dedicated UX professionals is a good start, but there is much more work to do on the way to UX maturity.
Prioritizing user experience should become part of corporate values. All the team members, from customer support to the executives have to adhere to the standards of user experience and consider it in all processes.
UX research should be conducted at all stages of the product life cycle: from the development of the first ideas to post-launch monitoring. The user experience should have a real impact on business processes, and vice versa, business success metrics should be tied to UX.
Are you willing to grow the maturity level of your company? Our UX professionals will be happy to help you! Drop us a line!
Risk-Free UX/UI Design Services: How to Do a Free 3-Day Trial With Eleken
A free trial is a popular practice among SaaS companies when users can try out digital products for a limited time. But what if I told you that you can trial design services?
Here at Eleken, we offer design services for three days of work at no charge. This way, our potential clients can evaluate our skills, get to know the team, and see whether we’re the right fit. Our team of 40+ UI/UX designers with SaaS design expertise can join any project, whether it is an MVP design, redesign, or team extension.
Here are more details on how our trial works and the benefits it can bring to your business.
Benefits of Eleken’s free trial
A free trial at Eleken provides a great opportunity to see how we work and experience the service first-hand before signing the contract. During the trial period, Eleken designer creates three design screens and presents them to you. You can share your thoughts and inform us whether you want to make changes or add something.
Eleken's trial carries no risk as we don’t ask to provide any payment information upfront. When the trial ends, it’s up to you to decide if we’re the right fit. We follow the subscription-based pricing model, which means that our clients pay a fixed monthly fee, just like with SaaS products.
All in all, if you are looking for a long-term collaboration with an agency, our trial period can be extremely helpful, and here is why:
- You get first-hand experience for free.
- You can evaluate our expertise, quality of work, and see whether we match your project needs.
- You can get acquainted with the Eleken team and our offering.
- You can make sure you get the best value for the price.
To ensure our clients get the design solutions they need, we typically follow the iterative process. Here is what it looks like.
An overview of the design process during the trial period
For the Eleken team, there is nothing more important than going the extra mile to provide our clients with the best design solutions possible. That is why our trial process includes four main steps.
Step 1: Kick-off trial call
We start the project by holding a kick-off trial call where we try to understand the client’s goal, product idea, target audience, and pain points. Then, we agree on communication channels with the client.
Also, we gather materials, do market research, and evaluate the project. For that, we assign a design manager and a responsible designer to work with each client.
Lastly, we identify the type of project since every project requires different approaches and management practices for its execution. It can be as follows:
- Design from scratch: the product is at the ideation stage, and we design it from the very beginning.
- Redesign: the design of a product is outdated or too complex to use.
- Team extension: our designers join your product development team.
Step 2: Screen design
During the next two days, our designer makes several screens. Once the first screen is done, they share the intermediate result with the client and receive feedback. After getting the feedback, our team continues to finalize the screens.
Step 3: Design presentation
Here comes the moment of presentation. The Eleken team provides the final solutions using Figma and explains the next steps in the design process, including how the work will be organized in case of cooperation.
Step 4: Subscription
After a successful trial period, more intensive work begins. We schedule a series of calls with the client to gather more detailed information. The responsible team will prioritize tasks with the client’s team and establish a timeline for deliverables to ensure a clear understanding of what to do first and when results can be expected.
As you see, the trial period is an informative and painless process that offers valuable data and insights into how we work. You don’t risk anything and can verify whether our service is a good choice for you.
By the way, we have recently talked to Anastasiia, Eleken’s UI/UX designer, who completed the trial with her first client and shared her experience in the interview. Feel free to read it in case you want to learn more.
And now that we talked about the trial, let’s look at a specific case.
We began our partnership with Datawisp with a 3-day trial. The client needed a complete redesign of the product’s main screen. This is how the Datawisp design looked before we started working on it:
Our designers offered three versions to choose from:
The client was pleased with the results, admitting that now the design looks fresh and bold.
Here is what Moritz Uehling, CTO of Datawisp, wrote on Clutch, “The three-day trial was very unique, giving you a risk-free chance to try working with them."
The redesign done by the Eleken team received positive reviews from both users and investors. As a result, Datawisp has raised $3.6 million USD in funding.
How to prepare for the trial?
A free trial from Eleken is a game-changer for businesses looking to create an MVP, fix or scale their SaaS product and see how their solution will function and look.
To make the most of the trial period with our agency, we advise you to gather some useful information:
- Project scope: outline timeline, budget, resources, deliverables, tasks, and so on.
- Design goals: define the desired outcomes for the trial.
- Target audience: identify a group of people that's most likely to use your product.
- References and specific requirements: get this data together to share with our designers.
Our trial provides you with a risk-free way to try our service and helps build trust from day one. If it seems good for you and you’re willing to try it, schedule a call with Eleken.
How the Double Diamond Approach Helps Find the Right Solution in UX/UI Design
Having been working as SaaS product designers for more than seven years already, we at Eleken can confidently state that good design is the result of a good thinking process. I mean, to come up with an effective solution, you first of all have to understand the problem you’re going to solve perfectly well. And this is where the design thinking Double Diamond model comes in.
The wonderful thing about the Double Diamond is that even if you hear about it for the first time, chances are you've already used it because it conveys how the design process should really feel.
This article will show you how following the Double Diamond approach can help you build a product that users will like. So, without further ado, let’s start with the definition.
What is the Double Diamond?
The Double Diamond model serves as a visual representation of the design process that designers can use as a framework when developing new creative solutions. Similar to other design thinking frameworks, it allows you to shift focus from the idea without jumping straight into development, but determine first whether the problem you’re going to solve really exists and whether you truly understand what your users need.
The Double Diamond framework resulted from the research conducted by the Design Council in 2004. The goal of this research was to discover how creative people process information in order to develop innovative solutions. The study involved such global companies as Apple, LEGO, Microsoft, Sony, Starbucks, and others.
"The result of this research was quite surprising: it turned out that no matter what challenges creative employees were trying to solve in each of the above-mentioned companies, they basically went through the same process to come up with innovative ideas."
The Design Council used these findings and formed the Double Diamond design model.
The phases of a Double Diamond design process
The Double Diamond model consists of two key stages (or "diamonds") that stand for "finding the problem" and "finding the solution." In their turn, these diamonds have the following phases: discover, define, develop, and deliver, each requires balancing between divergent or convergent thinking.
Divergent thinking supports your ability to consider various viewpoints and concepts. That is, it helps you come up with as many creative ideas as possible.
Convergent thinking helps you narrow down your ideas to those that are more likely to be effective.
The right combination of both ways of thinking lets you think creatively, and explore many opportunities but at the same time prevents you from getting lost in ideas and eventually leads you to choosing the right one.
The first Diamond, which includes the “discover” and “define” stages, is focused on in-depth research aimed to examine and identify the problem. The second Diamond, on the other hand, with its "develop" and "deliver" phases, concentrates on finding a solution, creating a prototype, and getting user feedback.
To give you a better understanding of each phase, let’s draw a parallel between planning our vacation with friends and using the Double Diamond methodology.
It’s the beginning of our project “Vacation” and we’ve just realized that it would be nice to take several days off and have some rest. But at this stage, we have a rather vague understanding of what we have to do to reach this goal. That’s why we need to start with the research:
- Ask our boss what dates we are allowed to take paid leave
- Ask our friends if they are willing to travel with us and what days they are free
- Consult with friends about where they'd want to go and what to do there
- Browse the Internet to find nice places and read what leisure activities are available there
- Watch photos of those places on Instagram, and so on.
Now let’s convert this info into discovery phase explanations.
In the discovery phase, you start with having an idea of what you want to create and your goal here is to get a better understanding of a problem space with the help of the research. It’s important not to base your design on assumption, but to collect all the necessary data that can give you the right problem’s context.
During the discovery, you’re diverging, which means you should think wide and collect as much information about the problem as possible. For this purpose, your team can imply one or several UX research methods. For example, they may talk to stakeholders, conduct user interviews, surveys, and competitor analysis, create customer journey maps, analyze existing metrics and KPIs, and review existing user data.
A tip from Eleken
When conducting user interviews
- Avoid using professional slang.
- Talk to people in an open-ended way choosing questions that require giving full answers. Instead of asking “Do you buy books online?”, try “What is your typical process of buying a book?”
- Instead of making value judgments, use neutral language. Not “Was it difficult for you to complete a purchase?”, but “Can you describe your feelings when completing a purchase?”. In case you can’t avoid making a value judgment, add an additional question that would give you more details, like “Was it difficult or easy to complete a purchase? What made it difficult to complete?”
- If your interviewee seems confused with a “why” question, try to replace it with alternatives like “What made you do a certain action?”, “What are you thinking of a certain action?”
And remember, you may develop your product in a more human-centered way after you understand your users’ needs firsthand.
Now when we have many wonderful vacation options to choose from, it’s time for a define phase.
- From the dates the boss and our friends suggested we choose those suitable for everyone.
- From all the proposed places, we choose those that everyone likes.
At the end of the stage, we know that we want to surf at Tenerife island from the 15 to the 25 of October and we need to find an apartment, rent a car, book tickets for a plane, and the like.
So, the define phase is where you start converging, taking all the insights from the research, and synthesizing them into a final problem statement and certain product requirements. This means you analyze the findings from the competitor analysis, user interviews, and so on, identify the key insights, and cluster them into related groups. These actions help you develop a product vision and a specific problem statement so that you can focus on when delivering an effective solution in the next Diamond.
A tip from Eleken
To formulate a problem statement, use the information from user research about user goals and pain points and choose the user need/problem that seems the most universal. Then use it in the “How might we…” sentence. This would be your problem statement.
Getting back to our “Vacation” project, at this point we already know our needs very well. So we can generate potential solutions to our problem that will work for our specific case:
- we look at Airbnb for suitable apartments
- check the available tickets on Skyscanner
- search for the local surf schools.
So, the develop phase is where we get back to divergent thinking again to generate various design ideas that can solve the problem identified during the previous stage. There are many design thinking ideation techniques that may help you cope with this task.
The develop part includes building user flows, wireframes, and low-fidelity prototypes to see how different pieces of user experience are going to work together. Also, it’s essential to conduct usability testing and show wireframes/prototypes to your design peers, and stakeholders so that you can iterate and improve concepts that you’ve developed.
At the end of this phase, you should have several concepts that you find the most promising.
A tip from Eleken
It may be tempting to move on to a solution right away after reducing the amount of data in the previous phase. Still, during the develop step, it's crucial to think creatively once more and come up with a variety of options. And choosing the right brainstorming strategy can help you generate many great ideas.
Don’t narrow down the solution too fast. Even the wildest suggestion may inspire the team and lead to other great ideas.
Finally, we choose the best solution from those generated at the previous stage to plan our perfect vacation: out of three hotels, four available surf schools, and five car options, we choose and book optimal variants in terms of location, budget, and preferences.
Then we go to Tenerife and see what kind of user experience we would have there. On the next vacation, we go through the whole process again, but take into account the mistakes that we made on this trip to make our next experience better.
As the deliver phase requires convergent thinking, your objective here is to validate solutions, choose the best one, and get it ready to hand it over to the engineers. For this purpose, designers build high-fidelity prototypes, test them, gather user feedback, and iterate to improve the future version of the product.
A tip from Eleken
In the deliver step, you validate ideas not with the help of usability testing, but your goal here is to prove the concept and determine whether users like the solution you've created and whether it serves their needs.
That's why don't fall in love with your ideas (some prototypes may still be scrapped at this stage). Instead, focus on feedback. Gather customer feedback and expert review every time you make changes or improvements to the product.
To sum up, it’s important to state that the Double Diamond design process is not a step-by-step guide. Consider it as a never-ending cycle of iteration and delivery that helps you find the right solution and keep bringing value to your customers.
How we created UI/UX design for a no-code graph visualization platform using the Double Diamond model
Cylynx is a graph intelligence tool that converts graph data into business insights and speeds up data exploration and analysis.
When Cylynx turned to Eleken for a UI/UX design, they had a demo version of the product, but with limited functionality. Our task was to turn the demo's user interface into a fully functional MVP.
It’s difficult for those who don’t work with graphs or data to understand the use cases of Cylynx. But to create really intuitive and consistent UX, designers should understand what problems users face. That’s why our main challenge was to figure out how and in what situations actual users would use Cylynx so that we can come up with a solution that is usable, valuable, and convenient for the end user.
We chose the Double Diamond to cope with this challenging task as it’s especially useful when you need to understand customers and explore creative ways to solve their problems.
The first step is to learn more about the software, its demo version, target audience, and competitors.
We started our research stage by talking to the representatives of the Cylynx team. Together, we examined the demo, dived into detail about how it works, defined why the features in the demo version work as they do, and identified cases when the software brings value to its users.
As a result, we managed to define the main app areas that people had trouble using.
- The graph editor: in the demo version its interface was made up of four equally important and independent tabs. And when the user took a certain action in one tab, they didn’t see the parameters they selected in the previous tab which made the interface confusing.
- Time series investigator: the feature that allows running the graph in a certain time sequence was difficult to use.
Next, we gathered the screens of popular graph visualization platforms (WeGephi, neo4j, Lnkurious, Tiger Graph, Graphistry, and Cytoscape) in one place, so that they were easy to compare and analyze.
Our findings showed that most of these applications were complex and required coding skills to use them.
At this stage, we had to identify our main problem statement.
Taking into account the findings from our research and the user pain points, we understood that to improve the existing demo and beat the competition, we should strive to make the Cylynx interface simple and intuitive so that users can faster explore and analyze data.
This was the time to come up with ideas on how to cope with the problems we defined during the first Diamond.
To generate best solutions for each issue, we ideated together with Cylynx developers.
Some of the decisions we made were:
- To improve the graph editor we decided to create three tabs (“Data to work with”, “Styles and filters”, and “View”), which now don’t overlap each other and allow users to clearly see what changes they make.
- As for the time series investigator, to make this feature more adaptable and easy to modify, we enlarged its size and added additional values.
During the deliver phase we created our final prototypes and handed them to the development team so that they could introduce Cylynx to real customers and start gathering feedback.
Use Double Diamond for innovative solutions
You'll find your path toward creating the right solution if you decently follow the Double Diamond approach. This method challenges you to reconsider your original idea, identify the real issue customers are experiencing, create the perfect solution for both users and your company, and, finally, test it.
If you want to learn more about how companies build innovative solutions using design thinking methodologies, read these five real stories of design thinking examples. And if you need someone to help you design the right solution, reach out to Eleken and have a free consultation.