All successful companies have strategies that govern most of their functions, including technology, people, finance, and even legal issues. However, it is very rare to hear about UX strategy in the boardroom of any company.
In the design world, “strategy” is a word that is often spoken but little used. Most often it is misused as a substitute for vision or planning for the future. Yes, strategy is close to these two concepts, but neither of them is a real replacement for strategy. There are many definitions of UX strategy. One of them was formulated by Jaime Levy: “Organization and planning of the future of all touchpoints with end users.” Although I agree with this definition at its core, we can develop it.
I must confess that in the past I have mistaken planning and especially forward-thinking innovation for UX strategy, and perhaps I should apologize to some clients. In my defense, I will say that when I was working on these projects, there were not many examples of a good UX strategy yet. We have yet to learn the best from the real life experiences of industry leaders. With this article I will try to contribute to this process.
In the design world, the word “strategy” is often spoken but little used.
The general definition of strategy tells us that it is “a complex choice that uniquely positions a firm in its industry to create competitive advantage and greatest value.” Traditionally, strategists have focused mainly on the actions of their companies against the backdrop of fierce competition. This aspect is missing from the definition above.
In his seminal book Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, Richard Rumelt highlights the underestimated qualities of good UX strategy examples, such as a focus on being bold and unexpected.
What is not a strategy
Many examples of misuse of this concept are related concepts.
Point of view. Strategy is not a point of view. This is foresight. You don’t get a strategy just by formulating a point of view.
Plan. For a great strategy, you probably need a great plan. But planning alone does not guarantee strategy.
Guidelines. You need guidelines, but they won’t tell you how to achieve your long-term goals. Good guidelines should be constantly updated. A good strategy includes guidelines, but by itself it shouldn’t be updated too often.
Responsiveness. Yes, the technology world is fast, but values and sound ideals are not changing very quickly.
Averaging. The best practices of other companies will not give your company a unique advantage. Trying to create a benchmarking solution will not solve your problem.
A good strategy will tell you not only where to go, but also how to get there. Since you will spend less energy to achieve more meaningful goals, you will need fewer key resources. A good set of strategies in all aspects of the company should not only give you efficiency, but also rational use of resources. Of course, you can – and you should – make adjustments to the strategy along the way, but strategy revision should only be based on evidence and a deep understanding of user behavior.
We cannot survive if we do not stop isolating the problems of the world from the problems of our business.
What Makes a UX Strategy Great
Achieving a long-term goal and achieving a competitive advantage in the long term requires patience, perseverance, and trust in the process and leadership. Moreover, it is not enough today to win a victory over competitors, especially if it is achieved at any cost. Ethical considerations should be a major part of your agenda, regardless of your strategy.
Thus, there are three essential qualities required for a successful UX strategy:
A weak and mediocre strategy will only bring ambiguity and mediocrity. A bold and unexpected strategy will create difficulties for your competitors and sharpen the focus on your team. You don’t need to keep your UX strategy a secret for it to work. You must take advantage of your company’s “unfair advantage” – whatever that is. Plus, you need to rise above industry standards. (“Focus on usability” is not an example of a true strategy)
A UX strategy, which is a long list of tasks, will not help you make decisions. It must be well worded to avoid misinterpretation. If your UX strategy includes design jargon, you should spend a lot of time teaching the company new vocabulary.
A UX strategy or design function can never exist on its own. They need to be in harmony with the rest of the company. Build your UX strategy on top of your company’s strategy, not against it. Remember to be nice. We cannot survive if we do not stop isolating the problems of the world from the problems of our business. If ethics and good attitude aren’t part of your company’s strategy, that’s a problem. That said, UX function can be one of the best advocates of humane values and longevity in the boardroom.
One of the best things that has happened to design in recent years is to increase our influence on strategic decision making. This allowed us to speak on behalf of users in the upper echelons of influential companies.
Now that we finally got our cherished seat at the table, it’s time to use it properly. Let’s use it wisely.