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What is a UX strategy? How to develop an effective one

Last updated

21 March 2023

Author

Chloe Garnham

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User experience (UX) is a critical aspect of product design and development. It’s the process by which companies create products to provide users with practical, logical, and meaningful experiences. 

UX impacts how users feel about products, how they use them, and how simple or challenging it is to complete tasks. 

Ensuring that your organization effectively adopts good UX doesn’t just happen. It requires the right strategy to execute best practices. A UX strategy can ensure UX is considered across every customer touchpoint – helping products to stay popular in a competitive landscape. 

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What is a UX strategy?

A UX strategy acts as a guide for a team to prioritize and implement helpful UX practices. A strategy, if executed correctly, can help ensure that user-centered design is at the forefront of goals and decision-making. Which in turn means creating human-focused products. 

You can create a UX strategy for just one feature, an entire product, or the organization as a whole. 

An effective strategy should cover all aspects of UX design, including planning, development, branding, appearance, usability, and functionality, along with key measures and goals. 

Some important aspects of a UX strategy include: 

  • Information aspects: taking into account current customer feedback, information from interviews and other research, and data collated through a variety of sources

  • Human aspects: considering the various stakeholders, designers, programmers, developers, engineers, and, importantly, the end user  

  • Outcomes: including functionality, aesthetics, features, and metrics for success 

Why is a UX strategy important?

UX design means creating products that don’t just look pleasing but also make actions simpler and faster. So creating a UX strategy means keeping the user at the center of all design and development decisions, which will ultimately better serve them. 

A strategy increases the chances of designing products that delight users while solving their problems. 

Today, not having a UX strategy can mean getting left behind in a competitive landscape. Studies show that design-led companies (who intentionally design with positive user experiences in mind) have a 41% higher market share and 50% more loyal customers than those who don’t.

Other benefits of having an effective UX strategy include: 

  • Having a ‘source of truth’ that all team members can regularly refer to that keeps everyone moving in the same direction

  • Ensuring that the term UX design isn’t too broad and instead has a clear measure of success that all stakeholders can be aware of

  • Helping key stakeholders to see the applicable benefits of UX design to ensure the organization values UX

  • Having a clear pathway to deliver on the promise of benefiting customers rather than broad statements that have no actionable value 

  • Bringing the dream and idea of positive UX to life 

What’s the difference between UX design and a UX strategy?

UX design means creating useful, logical, and meaningful experiences through products. UX design is the creation, whereas a UX strategy is the set of guidelines that bring those designs into creation. 

A UX strategy helps to align the team towards a common purpose, ensuring that you consider UX throughout all customer touchpoints. 

Ultimately, UX design is the overall principle, whereas a UX strategy is the avenue to implementing it. 

Having a weak UX strategy is a business risk

Having no UX strategy or a weak strategy can cause widespread issues across the business. That’s because all business relies on customers not only using your product or service once but coming back for more too. Customers will only use your product if it’s of benefit to them. And, in today’s competitive landscape—where customer retention and reviews are critical—the expectations are higher than ever before. 

Customers don’t just want products that solve their problems. They want enjoyable experiences, seamless transactions, and easy-to-use functions. Customers don’t expect learning curves, clunky functions, or loopholes in their products.

Good UX can solve those issues, ensuring that products deliver on their promises. Without keeping UX at the forefront of your designs, you run the risk of disappointing customers and having them look elsewhere to solve their problems. 

Without a solid UX strategy in place—that keeps the entire team on course—user-centricity may remain a dream and not become a reality.  

The core aspects of an effective UX strategy

The most effective UX strategies have seven key components. These include a vision statement, business strategy, research, core goals, key milestones, and a clear plan for success. 

1. Vision statement

This is the overall vision of the product or service—what your company wants to become for customers. 

In a UX strategy, your vision should speak to the problem you want to solve for customers and the result of solving it. 

Take Amazon’s overall vision as an example, 

“Our vision is to be Earth's most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.” 

Notice how customer-centricity is written directly into their vision which, assuming the right plan is in place, keeps the company on track to help and delight customers. 

2. Define a business strategy 

Once your vision is clear, it’ll be simpler to put together an overall business strategy—this may be something the company already has. 

All of your work and intentions, whether they relate to UX or not, should align with and link back to the overall business strategy. 

And it’s essential when creating a new UX strategy that it doesn’t conflict with or confuse the overall intention and aims of the business itself. 

3. Complete research

Research is a critical aspect of building customer-centric products. You cannot build a UX strategy until you have a clear picture of where your business currently is, what your competitors are doing, and what the market really wants. 

Without research, you could be spending time and money streamlining a service that customers simply don’t want or need. That’s why research should always precede any goal setting or planning. 

There are several ways to gather information and data to back up your UX strategy. These include interviews, surveys, usability testing, contextual inquiry, concept testing, focus groups, external data, A/B testing, and more. 

Some questions teams should ask themselves at this stage include: 

  • How could we speed up our service? 

  • How could we simplify our offering for the benefit of the end user? 

  • What are our competitors doing? 

  • How could we better serve our customers? 

  • What could set us apart from the competition? 

  • Where are our customers least loyal to us? 

  • What could we do to refine our business offering?

  • Do we have data to back up our intentions/goals/ideas/assumptions?  

Keep in mind research is a continual process. It’s essential to continually ask your customers for their thoughts, stay abreast of trends, and keep up with releases from your competitors. That research should always feed back into what you’re doing to help make your service better for the end user. 

4. Core goals

Your core goals are the key aspects of the strategy that you intend to achieve. These core goals will help to develop the overall plan—as the plan will turn these goals (and your milestones) into actionable steps. 

Your core goals should revolve around the end user and relate back to the problem you’re solving for them. They should also link to the core research you have completed. 

Remember your goals should be measurable and specific. If your goals are too vague—such as improving customer engagement—they’ll be much too hard to quantify. You should be able to specifically measure results that prove you’re achieving these goals. 

Some specific and measurable UX goals could include: 

  • To increase customer engagement by 20% by the end of the financial year

  • To make information architecture easier to access and decrease customer support tickets by 33% 

  • To improve overall app reviews from a 4.1 rating to a 4.6 rating by September 

  • To improve customer retention by 10%, which will, in turn, increase our profit by [x] amount 

5. Key milestones 

In any strategy, there must be key measures of success—otherwise, it’s challenging to know if the team is on track or not. 

Key milestones also help the team to feel as though they're achieving goals while the overall project is still in progress, something that can prove very motivating. 

The milestones should align with the core goals of the UX plan and link to the research completed in the earlier stages. 

To create the key milestones, you can use sentence starters such as: 

  • We’ll know we have succeeded when…

  • Our first intention is to… 

  • We most want our customers to…

  • Our highest priority goal is… 

  • The following goals may take us longer to achieve… 

6. A clear plan

The next aspect of any useful UX strategy is a clear plan that breaks all goals into actionable steps. The plan acts as a source of truth for all parties to refer to and stay on track. It should be a live document, which is regularly updated, that all parties can reference when they need to. 

The plan should include a timeline, intended actions from specific teams, and measures of success. This breaks down the goals into actionable steps that will help you reach the milestones. 

The plan will also include check-in points and opportunities to change track if the results of changes don’t fall as expected. 

The plan ultimately keeps all team members efficiently moving towards the same goals. 

7. Run structured experiments 

As part of a UX strategy, it’s important to run experiments and iterate on the results that you glean from them. 

When you move through the plan, gradually working towards your goals and milestones, you’ll want to run structured experiments. Rather than making changes across the whole business without first running tests, it’s helpful to make slow releases to test and learn. If your results are positive and customers are benefiting from changes, they can be released more broadly. If not, iterate, and test again. 

The results from your test and learn phases may mean significant changes to your plan and goals—that’s okay. The important thing is to improve your UX based on evidence and accurate data, not on the opinions of team members. 

Being open to change as you gather more information from usability testing, beta testing, or other types of experiments is important. This will help your team stay nimble, respond to feedback, and keep iterating to meet customers' expectations. 

How to execute the UX strategy

Effectively executing a UX strategy means having all key stakeholders come together to work towards common goals.

It’s important to keep all key people moving in the same direction. To do this, consider these essential areas:  

  • Primary stakeholders: Having strong UX clarity throughout the business ultimately comes from the leadership level. This can help ensure that a customer-centric intention flows throughout the organization. All primary stakeholders, therefore, ought to be clear and motivated on the UX approach. Primary stakeholders may be motivated by business value, so proving value over time can help bring this level on board.

  • Secondary stakeholders: team leaders, including project managers, product managers, and lead researchers and designers, also need to align on the benefits of UX as they lead the day-to-day actions of the company. 

  • Your customers: the feedback from your current customers is of huge importance when creating a new UX strategy. Their thoughts, feelings, and comments can be an integral part of the strategy, feeding into improvements, updates, and future releases. 

  • Competitive customers: what do users of your competing products have to say? Paying attention to what they like about your competition can be integral to improvements in your own UX strategy and can indicate what users are looking for. 

  • Beta users: when you release a new product, it’s essential to gain as much information as possible from the new users. This can help inform your strategy and help you to make critical iterations before you release the alpha product. 

  • Trends and data: looking at what the data says about products should be looked at when creating a UX strategy. Trends can make a huge difference in whether your product or service will succeed. 

What’s a UX strategy example?

A UX strategy ought to consider all of the core components of an effective guide while being relevant to your specific offering. A dating app, for example, will have a different UX strategy to a series of SaaS products with external touchpoints.

As an example, a productivity tool’s UX strategy may start with the problem of workers struggling to block out time for deep work. The productivity app may address this problem by pausing notifications on the user’s phone, keeping track of all important tasks, and setting a timer to track a work session related to each of those important tasks.

The company’s vision might be to: help our customers work effectively and productively on one task at a time without distractions.

Research that the company will have completed will likely show that people are highly distracted. It may give data on the average worker, how many distractions they have per day, and how many minutes it takes them to get back on task. User research may show that workers want tools that help them stop looking at their phones throughout the day. 

The company’s goals may include increasing the time users spend using the productivity tool—which indicates they’re doing deep work (and it’s good engagement for the business). This time should be specific and measurable, and there may be a key milestone—such as the number of hours users spend on the platform—for the team to work towards. 

Many avenues may lead to users doing this—that’s why it’ll be essential for the team to set out a plan of solutions, test and learn new design features, and then iterate accordingly while keeping user-centricity front-of-mind. 

A UX strategy is the cornerstone

A company that values UX is more likely to stay popular in a competitive marketplace. UX means designing products for the way people behave, helping to solve their problems, and creating meaningful experiences for their benefit. 

A good UX strategy increases the chances of effectively considering users across the business to effect change at all customer touchpoints. 

The right UX strategy cohesively brings teams together to share one common vision—ultimately helping to turn the idea of positive UX into a reality. All for the benefit of the end user.

FAQs

Is UX product or marketing?

A UX team often sits outside of both the marketing and product teams—though in some organizations, UX may be part of the overall design team. 

While UX has many of the same goals and principles as marketing, marketing teams are typically concerned with customers at a later stage of the process—covering a go-to-marketing strategy, advertising, content, and more. 

Product teams are concerned with building products—design, development, iterations, and more. In some companies, there may be mixed product teams that include UX designers. In others, there may be a UX team sitting aside the team, feeding in key information from user research and more. 

Regardless of the structure, UX team members help ensure UX is considered across all areas of the business to truly benefit the end user. 

What’s the difference between a UX strategist and a UX designer?

A UX designer is concerned first and foremost with the end user and how they’ll experience the product. While the UX strategist has a similar goal, they also consider how adopting UX best practices will impact the whole business and how it aligns with the business strategy. 

The UX strategist tends to work with key stakeholders to bring UX principles through the whole business, whereas the UX designer is usually more focused on testing, learning, and iterating with feedback from users. 

What is UX in product development?

UX in product development helps ensure that products produced provide helpful and meaningful experiences to end users.

What is the most common deliverable of a UX strategist?

The essential goal and core deliverable of a UX strategist is to create strategy presentation decks and briefs.

They use the information they’ve gathered through research, user feedback, the overall business strategy, and conversations with stakeholders to create core principles and goals that make up the overall UX strategy.

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