UX *is* Strategy

Much has been written about UX Strategy, with an explosion of discussions about defining and implementing UX Strategy the last 2+ years.  While not new to the field of UX, strategy is still quite varied in its conceptualization and implementation.  Some view UX Strategy as driving UX design; others view it as being an activity in and of itself, helping organizations develop a roadmap for their products and customer experiences.

We believe that UX Strategy should be at the heart of every UX engagement.  

At the most basic level, it is a way of thinking and ensuring collaborative dialogue with our clients.  It seeks to understand the holistic need, capturing the broader context for specific stated goals.  It guides what research and design activities are most appropriate to achieve success.  It is the dialogue that continues throughout an engagement, ultimately driving how to best position the stakeholder/client, both short-term and long-term.  It is the dialogue that helps clients embed and grow UX thinking and doing within organizations.

Although strategy is conceptually a top-down approach, UX Strategy is both top-down and bottom-up.  While the top-down approach helps drive UX across an organization at a systemic, programmatic level, we believe the bottom-up approach can be an incredibly impactful way of incrementally building and implementing UX Strategy within an organization.

So what does a bottom-up UX Strategy look like in practice? 

Let’s first take a standard usability test (UT) of a mobile app as an example.  A UT engagement commonly beings with an initial meeting with the clients to understand the goals for the research and to identify the target users.  Review of the test stimuli and preparation of the Moderator’s Guide follows.  Fieldwork consists of a few ‘warm-up’ questions that are often about gathering some contextual understanding of the user, while the majority of the session is targeted at asking users to complete tasks to assess the usability and user experience of the mobile app.  Following fieldwork, a report is provided that details out the findings and pairs with it some actionable recommendations. 

What does this mobile app UT look like with UX Strategy applied?

Engage initial discussions beyond the mobile app itself in order to:

  • Gain a holistic view of an organizations customer touch points, how the app fits in with other products or services offered by the client
  • Understand who the users are, not just in terms of demographics and for the purposes of creating a Recruitment Screener, but for the purposes of understanding how the app fits into the context and environment of the user
  • Know how competitors compare, assess the competitive landscape and identify key differentiators

Collaborate during fieldwork in order to:

  • Reassess what is known about the user, evaluate whether the findings tell us something new about the user in context
  • Understand true root causes for UX issues, teasing out whether difficulties with task completion is due to confusing UI, a mismatch between implementation and the user’s mental model, or perhaps discontinuity with the user’s environment
  • Assess alignment with the business, evaluating how the findings are in line or different from higher-level perspectives across the organization, across their product lines

Synthesize post-fieldwork in order to:

  • Collaboratively develop recommendations and next steps, based not only on the findings, but a more in-depth discussion of short-term business goals
  • Elevate recommendations, above and beyond addressing specific usability findings, to roadmapping how the mobile app can be enhanced to achieve long-term success.

You probably realized by now that the points I just reviewed are not rocket science.  You’re right.  UX Strategy is simply bigger picture thinking for the user experience.  And with bigger picture thinking, you get bigger picture, longer-term results.