UX strategy, or user experience strategy, lies at the intersection of UX design and business strategy. It allows businesses to reasonably prioritize tasks and make sure that they don’t spend their resources on non-essential aspects during the product development process. This way building a UX strategy helps to deliver a product with the needed functionality within the expected timeline and budget and align your expectations of the product with customers’.
Eleken is a team of product designers. And being a product designer means we not only have a good grasp on UX design principles and decent visual sense, but also an understanding of the product strategy, the customers’ needs, and business objectives.
Though we believe that every particular project we work on is unique and it is difficult to come up with the exact system/plan with checklists or something like that, in this article, we want to share with you our understanding of what a user experience strategy is, its importance for your business, and steps we take to create the strategy in Eleken.
I guess it will be logical to start with the definition.
What is a UX strategy?
UX strategy is a strategic planning process that takes into account not only the goals of the business but also the needs of the real consumers of the brand and connects each customer touchpoint with a user experience that the company intends to create.
A UX strategy program includes an understanding of the current state of your project, the development of a vision for the future user experience, a priority plan for achieving goals, and defining what UX KPIs and metrics to use to measure the progress.
All of the above points are connected with the overall business strategy, including the long-term plan for the development of organizational capabilities and company culture.
So, a UX strategy should present a clear statement of the product vision and the results that we want to achieve for the business and end-users and can have the following structure:
Challenges: what issues you are trying to solve
- Aspirations: what the perfect desired outcome is
- Focus area: what you will focus on for the most impact
- Guiding principles: how you will solve the issues and overcome challenges
- Activities: what types of activities are needed to complete the strategy
- Measurements: what type of metrics you will use to gauge your success
And finally, when developing a UX strategy remember to share it with all your team members and stakeholders (if nobody sees your UX design strategy document it is useless).
Properly done UX strategy will become a strong foundation for further project development while jumping directly to design will multiply efforts during the edits.
How to create a UX strategy?
As we have already briefly mentioned, at Eleken we don’t have some strict UX strategy framework. But when providing our UI/UX design services we never jump straight into the design, we invest time in bringing order to your requirements and understanding what we're about to create.
When building a strategy the designer needs to understand the main idea of the product, its goals, and objectives. It is also a time of market research and understanding the business model behind this project. During this period the core functionality of the product should be decided and discussed, as well as some basic schedule and roadmap for the design milestones. That’s why during this period we usually have a lot of calls (in some cases, even meetings and workshops) related to product discussion and iterations for clarifications regarding future user experience strategy.
UX strategy process may include different steps, and various types of research may be required. Below we will provide you with the basic ones.
6 steps to create a UX strategy
When creating a UX strategy most companies stick to the following sequence of steps:
Now, let’s learn about each phase in more detail.
Step 1: Evaluate the current state
It is worth starting to prepare a strategy by looking around and assessing the current state of the product and what global challenges the business faces.
It is very useful if there is a business plan that you can rely on. But even if there is none, you will have to fill in the gaps of missing data through interviews with stakeholders.
What is important to pay attention to at this phase:
- Common tasks that the business should solve. For example, test the effectiveness of a business model, win over users’ loyalty, retain customers, and so on. Understanding such basic goals allows you to set the right focus from the very beginning. UX strategy cannot (and should not) be created without considering the needs of the business.
- Problems that you already know about. For example, user churn increases, annual recurring revenue does not grow.
- The resources you have.
Step 2: Set your goals, UX vision, and proof of concept
Once it becomes clear what is happening with the product and with the business right now, it's time to think about how you would like the product to be perceived in the future.
For example, one of our clients, Textmagic, a SaaS product in the field of sales and marketing, wanted to avoid becoming complex as they add new functions and products. And the appearance of new features often leads to a poor user experience. The goal of Textmagic was to become a new version of Zendesk, only simple from the user’s perspective.
Maybe you’ve already understood that we are talking about the value proposition here. Textmagic’s value proposition sounded like this:
You can learn more about this project in Textmagic’s case study.
Step 3: Define focus areas and the strategy scope
We adopt the strategy for a certain period of time. It can be 6 months, after which we hold a retrospective and discuss whether it needs to be updated or you can take a longer period (but then you need to have intermediate control points).
When talking about focus areas, we usually highlight several points.
If you still don’t have your user personas defined, you can think of your target audience (still, it is not that effective). The goal of this focus area is to discuss with the team for whom exactly they solve this or that issue or create a new feature.
Usually, businesses have more than one type of buyer personas and it is better to prioritize them. In situations where you have to choose whose needs to satisfy in the first place, prioritization will come in handy.
For example, every day the support team receives requests for feature A from some individual users. And at the same time, your salesman says that one potential client-enterprise is almost ready to buy your biggest subscription plan if only you add feature B to the product. Focusing on a target audience in your UX product strategy helps to decide what feature to start developing first.
Services and products
Focus on services/products is relevant for big companies, in case you have a small project your focus area will be parts of a product or interaction stages. To find this focus area we should get back to the two first steps - business issues and goals.
If the product performs only one function there probably will be no problems with the allocation of resources. But what if there is more than one feature, and besides, users at different interaction stages use different functions, your team faces a problem of what to do first: design onboarding, work on increasing conversions to paid subscriptions, or develop new features.
When you look at competitors, questions arise about how people use certain features of your rival’s product and how important these features are for users. This way conducting competitor research helps to understand what to focus on in your own project.
Of course, everyone would like the product to be consistent, useful, beautiful, easy to use, and at the same time affordable. But you may not be able to combine it all in one product. Therefore, it is worth deciding what UX areas are paramount and examine the current state of each UX area. Perfectly, you should prioritize areas based on feedback from users.
Step 4: Create guidelines
One of the most important parts of the strategy is a set of specific rules, adherence to which will allow you to achieve your goals. Guiding principles define what approaches to take to solve the issues your business is facing.
This can include a particular sequence of activities, like "mobile-first." But these rules should not be too narrow (for example, should not be limited to visual design only). Creating guidelines helps everyone move towards the same objective.
Step 5: Develop a plan
Everything we talked about before had a single purpose: to understand what actions to take in order to reach your final goal.
For that reason, you need a high-level plan. This “plan” is rather the list of activities you need to take to solve the business problems and meet user needs.
For example, a part of your plan may look like this:
- Conduct user research
- Develop user personas (or validate existing ones).
- Create a prototype.
- Start usability testing on prototypes.
- Develop a design system.
- Conduct the content audit and align it with the strategy.
Step 6: Define what metrics to track
An essential part of your strategy should be defining metrics that will help you assess whether what you are doing is helping you achieve your goals.
It is better to immediately determine how often you will track changes in metrics. It depends on the metrics, but you can take checkpoints every 2-4 weeks as the base case.
To learn more about which metrics to track read about 9 Key SaaS metrics.
To sum up
Creating a UX strategy itself is a useful exercise because it forces you and your team to ask important questions, identify problems, and reflect on them. But it is very important not to stop at simply “creating a strategy”. Make sure that each member of your team uses it as their guide to achieve positive results.
And once again let’s summarize what to pay attention to make your UX strategy effective:
- UX strategy document: Once presented to the team, we make it available to everyone. It should contain links to all other artifacts (user personal, customer journey maps, product roadmaps, and so on) so that no one has any problems with quickly accessing the needed data/document.
- User personas, design principles, and KPIs: These are the parts of the strategy that directly affect daily tasks, so it is useful to keep them in sight all the time.
- Activities from the plan: After discussion, you divide those activities into tasks, each with a performer, a grade, and a deadline.
- Calendar: After discussion with the team, you can set the dates of the retrospective and adjustments, so that everyone knows about it.
At this point, it may seem like creating a great user experience and aligning it with your business goals is a lot of work. Well, it is, but it is definitely worth all your effort. And if you need professional help in creating a simple and coherent product experience drop us a line and we will answer all your questions.