What is UX Strategy?

Moderated by Jillian Hudson, UXC; UXr Guild Board of Directors
This is an abridgment; view the full video presentation here.
Session 1 – September 13, 2022

What is UX Strategy?

According to CareerFoundry, UX Strategy is “a detailed plan for how we keep the users’ experience … in line with the overall goals and objectives at the Company.  UX strategy can help ensure that the organization’s vision of what they want the customers/users to experience can become a reality while staying within predetermined company guidelines.

UX strategy is literally the “User + Business” and addresses the following questions: 

  • What are the business goals? 
  • What are the users’ needs? 
  • How can we merge them together? 

We create the best situation for both by showing how we can make business goals come true by meeting the users’ needs. Everything else is all persuasion and influence, and becoming an authority. 

What is Good UX Strategy?

In Robert Hockman, Jr’s ebook, The Field Guide to UX Strategy, UX Pin, he states: “What a good UX strategy entails is researching and recognizing constraints and concerns from all sides and painting a big red target on the wall so that everyone involved can make decisions that serve researched, vetted and defined objectives.”

A good UX strategy entails researching and recognizing the constraints and concerns from all sides. Doing this allows everyone involved to make decisions that serve research embedded and defied objectives. 

What are the components of good strategy?

  • An “Authentic” Vision of the Future: A reasoned BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Since stakeholders can sometimes lose the big picture, it’s important to focus on the overriding objective, and help them plan and prepare in order to meet that goal.
  • Plan: One that answers the “what,” “why,” “who,” and “how.” This plan supports the strategic view while implementing tasks.
  • Strategic milestones: A charted course of action aligned with objectives for reaching this vision. These milestones of where you want to go, and how long it’s going to take you to get there, will help you stay in course. Strategy is a living document that has to be refreshed every once in a while. 
  • Governance: For decision making and change management guidelines (to support long-term commitment to executing the strategy), you need governance and continually massaging your strategy and roadmap.
  • The Right Team: A committed, cross-functional, and multi-level group. Strong, focused, with executive support. That means people from UX, engineering, product, and business. You are basically finding all of this. 

What is Bad UX Strategy?

  • Short-term tactics, baby steps, descoping user needs out of projects. 
  • Any strategy that we do once and put on the shelf. Those are called SPOTS (Strategic Plans on the Shelf) and are not good UX strategy because it doesn’t matter how well thought out, how detailed it is, or how many deliverables you have. If it’s not implemented, it’s not doing any good.
  • UX going it alone without buy-in of product and business. This is not something we can do alone. Getting the buy-in from business is essential since they’re the ones that control the budget. And if they’re bought in, then product and engineering will come along.

Who Owns the UX strategy?

By virtue of it being the UX strategy UX owns it. The fact that we refer to it as “UX Strategy,” however, might imply that the onus is on us to do it alone. But, we can’t do it alone. It has to be something that is worked on collaboratively. You need to have everyone’s buy-in and input so that everyone feels ownership.

How Often Should I Meet with Stakeholders?

To determine this, it’s important to consider your rapport with your stakeholders. Could that rapport benefit from more frequent interaction?

You could also ask them the following questions:

  • “Do you want to be included on all my research presentations?” 
  • “Do you want to be invited to observe all my research presentations?”
  • “How can I help you?”

They may not involve themselves or attend everything, but extending the invitation lets them know what’s going on, who you are talking to, and what you’re talking to them about. It piques their interest, keeps them engaged, and keeps your name in front of them. Not only will they know you better, they will know you are there to assist them with any questions they have, or challenges they are facing. 

How to Communicate with Stakeholders and Across Teams

One of the key points in speaking to stakeholders about UX, and having them hear you, is to speak with them in their own language. You have to use the business language they use and not the UX language that we would use when speaking with colleagues. Sometimes there is a misconception that UX is all “touchy-feely” and needs to make everybody feel happy. But stakeholders are focused on the bottom line, making profit, and being successful. Therefore, it’s crucial to communicate the concept that helping the users, will ultimately, help them.

So, instead of saying, “Let’s do UX Strategy,” say, in essence, “I want to help to create a vision of where you’re going. I’ve done some research and here are some strategies that will help you progress toward your goals.” This approach communicates an understanding of what your stakeholders’ goals are in the first place, and a willingness to move in a direction to achieve them.  

It’s equally important to understand that your own communication style might be completely different from stakeholders, and product and engineering team members. Taking the time to know yourself better, will help you to communicate more effectively with others.

What is the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

UX strategy is a leadership function, but leadership is not rank. You can, and should, learn to lead without authority. On the other hand, management is rank, but that is not to say that people who are in management, can’t be leaders. Obviously they can be both. The difference here is that you can’t, and should not, manage without authority. Management is something that is conferred to you by your employer. It is not something that you could do on your own. Leadership is something you can do on your own; you don’t need somebody’s permission to be a leader. 

Leadership is transformative and provides vision, focuses on the future, seeks change and motivates others.

Management, on the other hand, is transactional and drives quality execution, oversees current processes, analyzes and executes team performance and manages others.

In the informative, and highly entertaining, video, “Pioneering Leadership: First Follower Principle,” a lone man dancing in a park becomes a leader the instant one person joins him. This then gives confidence to others to follow suit.

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership
determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”
Stephen R, Covey


Meeting Business Goals and User Needs

We always want to make the users’ lives better with the work that we produce. It’s just a slight shift to thinking about what the business needs in order to service the users’ needs. We stand a much better chance of doing that if we’re speaking to the business in the way that they need to hear it. Everybody wants to be successful, and when you make the user successful, you make the business successful. But it takes turning the UX lens towards the users first, and then towards the people that you’re working with and understanding them in a way that helps facilitate the work that you’re doing.

You may be doing this unintentionally, and not aware of the impact you’re having, but with this mind shift, you will do it intentionally. And intentionality really is the key.

Leveling Up with UX Strategy Session 2 – October 11, 2022 – “How to Create and Identify UX Champions.”

Leveling Up with UX Strategy Session 3 – December 5, 2022 – “How to Initiate UX Research-led Projects that Get Prioritized and Funded.”

Jillian Hudson is NN/g UX certified in Research and Management. She worked as a UX Product Designer/Usability Expert for American Airlines and as a UX Strategist and Researcher for Bank of America, and Wells Fargo Bank. She is currently Principal UX Research Strategist at XPO Logistics. Contact Jillian through the UXr Guild Slack channel

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