What is UX strategy? UX Question #69

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Calvin from Houston, Texas, asks: What is UX strategy?

I love that question. Thanks for asking, Calvin. This is UX Question number 69 and I am Ben Judy.

What is UX strategy? Well, this is a funny topic because strategy is a fuzzy word. I can point you to various UX experts and authors who have given us precise definitions and examples of UX strategy, but you’ll quickly find they aren’t all saying the same thing. But there’s a reason why.

We begin with Jamie Levy, author of UX Strategy published in 2015 by O’Reilly Media. Jamie describes UX strategy with four tenets. They are: business strategy, value innovation, validated user research, and killer UX. Jamie says the work of a UX Strategist is to validate if your product idea actually solves a problem for real customers in a dynamic marketplace. This is a very practical, product-focused view of UX strategy.

But what if UX strategy is also about design as an organizational discipline or practice? What if it’s more about leading design talent and teams to be better positioned within the org and better aligned to the overarching business strategy?

You may have read about UX maturity models. These frameworks helps us assess the quality and effectiveness of UX as a discipline. Design leaders are responsible for a long-range plan for helping the business achieve specific goals through investment in UX. Is that not UX strategy as well?

So we see that a UX strategy can be focused on digital products and services. We ask “how” might we deliver better user experiences through better design?

It can also be focused on developing the maturity of UX within the organization. We ask “what” might a more effective and impactful UX practice look like?

But there’s perhaps a third way to think about UX strategy. The purpose level. Here we ask, “why?”

Why harness the power of UX design for products and as a practice. What’s it all for? What kind of world are we designing toward? This is purpose driven UX strategy—and while it plays out within companies and is expressed through products and services—it’s ultimately down to each individual designer.

UX strategy is about defining the goals you want to achieve and the paths you’ll take to get there through user-centered design. We answer the how, what, and why of UX design efforts.

UX strategy is a fuzzy concept because it exists at three different levels or altitudes: products, practice, and purpose. We must be clear about which we’re operating at. But this is also what makes UX strategy so powerful, and so fascinating to work with.

Keep asking your questions about UX. Next time, I’ll answer the question: What should I discuss in a project kickoff meeting?

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