You know you need a UX strategy, but what should that include? Here are five essential components for any successful UX strategy.
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There is a lot of bad advice online about the creation of a UX strategy. Information that still confuses the user interface with the broader user experience.
Why Most UX Strategy Advice Sucks!
That is because those writing such articles often come from a design background. However, to look at the entire user experience, you need to look beyond the edges of the screen.
Developers, marketers, project managers and indeed almost anybody in a company shapes the user experience. Heck, even the accountants have an impact. As a result, you cannot look at a UX strategy just from a design background.
If you do look at your UX strategy from a design-only perspective, it leads to a rather narrow focus, that although helpful at a departmental level (such as a product or digital team), fails to address the end-to-end user experience.
Therefore, in this post, I want to step back and ask what would go into a UX strategy that was seeking to look at a company-wide and cross-disciplinary approach to improving the user experience.
That said, let’s begin with the most prominent component of any UX strategy — understanding the audience.
1. A Clear Understanding of Your Audience and Their Journey
User research has to underpin any UX strategy. There is little point in attempting to write a UX strategy until you have a solid understanding of your audience.
That means in advance of producing a UX strategy; I recommend carrying out a discovery phase that includes a reasonable degree of user research. You cannot rely on your assumptions about your audience are correct.
- Ultimate goal.
- Problems they are hoping your product or service will address.
- Objections or concerns.
- Tasks they need to complete.
- Influencing factors.
- State of mind.
- Points of interaction with your organisation.
- Overall context.
Avoid relying solely on data, but ensure you have at least some personal interaction with your audience. Without that, you cannot truly understand your audience and create a UX strategy around their needs.
Once you have carried out your research, I recommend mapping the customer’s journey so you can visualise the overall experience. That will enable you to identify weaknesses in the experience and possible projects to address those issues.
A customer journey map will also allow you to consider the context of the digital user experience.
2. A Full Lifecycle Mindset
One of the most common mistakes I see people making when writing UX strategies is only to consider a part of the overall experience. That typically manifests itself in two forms.
Either, people focus just on the digital components of the experience or only consider the sales and marketing aspects.
Look Beyond Digital
Because most of those who write a UX strategy come from a digital background, we have a natural bias towards that domain. However, digital is only a small part of the overall customer experience, and any UX strategy needs to take that into account.
Non-digital channels such as an in-store visit or a call to a customer support line, are as much a part of the experience as social media, email or a website. That means they need as much consideration and optimisation to ensure the best experience possible.
Even if management has limited the scope of your UX strategy to online, you still need to consider offline touchpoints. That is because these provide the context for an online experience.
For example, if you know the customer support line is painful, you want to ensure that as few users as possible are required to contact it!
Don’t Forget the Post Purchase Experience
The second area that many UX strategies overlook is the post-purchase experience. Customer acquisition is essential to any company, but ignoring the experience of existing customers is likely to lead to a constant turnover of customers and negative comments online.
A happy customer has a higher lifetime value, a lower cost of sale and are more likely to speak positively about your brand to others both online and in-person.
A good UX strategy looks at the entirety of the customer’s experience. However, even if it does not, once again, context matters. If the post-purchase experience has weaknesses, it is important not to over-promise and to manage buyers expectations.
Of course, if you want to consider the entire user experience in your strategy, that will mean thinking beyond the confines of organisational structure.
3. A Cross-Functional UX Strategy
No one team or department can write a UX strategy in isolation. That is because, as I said earlier, almost every employee in a company helps to shape the customer experience.
With that in mind, it is important to include stakeholders from across the organisation in its creation. If you do not, they will almost certainly reject it because they felt excluded from its inception.
Not that you simply want to include colleagues to avoid their pride getting injured! You also need different perspectives to ensure you see the user’s experience from as many angles as possible.
I often find that a workshop can be the right way of engaging stakeholders without getting bogged down in the nuances of the final UX strategy.
For example, the customer journey mapping workshop I mentioned earlier is an excellent way of finding weaknesses and stimulating discussion about how the experience could be improved. It is also a good starting point for identifying challenges around making those improvements. These often revolve around:
- Organisational culture.
- Processes and policy.
- Company structure.
- Legacy technology.
- Resources both in terms of people and money.
Discussions about resourcing and responsibilities are particularly important. These are two areas that should feature highly in any UX strategy.
4. User Champions and Realistic Resourcing
If you ask any leadership team to list their organisational priorities, they almost always mentioned customer service or customer experience.
However, if you ask who is responsible for improving the customer experience and what resources they have available for the task, you will often find that there is little behind that supposed commitment.
In most cases, that is not because leadership is lying about their commitment to customer experience. Instead, it is that they are naive about what it takes to shape a great experience.
There is a belief that creating an outstanding experience is everybody’s responsibility and in a sense that is correct. Every employee will help shape that experience.
However, by making everybody responsible, effectively nobody is. It will only end up at the bottom of people’s todo list, pushed out by more pressing concerns.
Therefore, a good UX strategy needs to make recommendations ensuring customer experience receives the attention management desire.
That means it needs clear leadership, somebody who is responsible for making the customer experience a priority and who is accountable if things go badly.
Of course, making somebody responsible for the customer experience without giving them the authority and resources they need makes the role redundant.
That is why your UX strategy needs to recommend budgets and human resources as well as establish the scope of that person’s role.
That scope should almost certainly involve the creation of some processes and policies around improving the user experience.
5. Process and Policies to Support Ongoing Testing and Research
Any good UX strategy cannot ignore the culture, policies and working practices that a company has. These are significant factors in dictating the quality of the user’s experience.
In particular, I would look at two areas in your UX strategy.
First, I would encourage you to look at the existing policies and procedures that are used in your organisation and identify any that are proving harmful to the current user experience.
For example, do you offer an unfavourable return policy or tie a customer in for a lengthy contract.
Second, I would look at new practices that you could put in place that would improve the experience over time.
One of my favourites in this regards is to insist that the organisation tests all projects from initial conception to ongoing optimisation (post-launch).
Another one I favour is to require all stakeholders in a project to have had recent contact with end-users before they can contribute ideas.
Then, of course, there are design principles that act as a reference point for decision making throughout projects.
In short, policies and procedures can be a powerful way to ensure user’s needs are not forgotten or overlooked in the midst of a project.
A Business Wide UX Strategy
There is no right or wrong way to do a UX strategy. No magic formula you can follow that guarantees results. Creating a good UX strategy is very much reliant on understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your particular business and tailoring an approach around that.
However, to achieve this aim, you are going to need to look at the business as a whole. That is going to mean consulting with people across the organisation.
Ultimately, the wider you consult, the better the final result and the more buy-in you will receive from colleagues. When it comes to your UX strategy, it pays to think big.