What's it like to use your product or service? How do your customers interact with them, and what do they feel when they use it?
The answer to those questions is your user experience (UX).
It's not just something that happens. It's something that you have to build towards with a critical analysis of your product or service. With the right UX strategy, you can influence and shape it in a way that builds business success.
It's not a simple task. But it's well worth your time and effort.
Interested in how you can develop an effective UX strat? In this article, we'll talk through:
- The nuances of a UX strategy
- How it benefits your business
- And how you can create your own UX strategy
Let's start by thinking about the two concepts of the word: UX and strategy. "UX" is short for user experience, the way your audience feels when they use your product or service. "Strategy" stands for an intentional plan to get from where you are to where you want to be. Put them together, and you have your definition.
A user experience strategy, in short, is the intentional effort to influence the way your audience feels when they use your product or service.
It's not about the features or even the theoretical benefits of your product . UX is much more nuanced than that. It's about the intangibles, the thoughts, and feelings you can unearth in your customers that ultimately lead to satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Nike is an amazing example of strategic UX. Nike produces great quality shoes, but probably not that much better than its competitors in terms of its materials and production process.
And yet, it's got an almost cult-like following. A new Air Jordan? People line up for hours to get it. That's because it prompts feelings of being the best, a rare combination of both scarcity and quality.
Those feelings don't happen by accident. Nike has spent decades building its brand to get to that point. Stated differently: Nike has consciously invested in user experience strategy.
Knowing what UX strategy actually means is half the game. Understanding its benefits? That's how you can invest the resources to start actually building the thing.
Think of your UX strategy as the backbone of your product or service design. Getting to the final product will take significant time and resources. Especially as you grow your business, you need to make sure you spend it wisely.
Great designers can make something look good. Great engineers can build a sound product. Great writers can put the words to it. UX strategy, though, is the only thing that makes the whole greater than those parts.
If you build it in the beginning, you've set the course to success. You can make sure that none of your teams wastes time working on something that won't engage your audience.
Instead, it helps you minimize uncertainty, helping you understand whether your audience actually wants (and needs) the features you're building. You can solve actual problems, instead of just working based on assumptions.
Minimizing uncertainty, in turn, helps to minimize risks. You don't end up having to validate something that's already built. Instead, with validation out of the way, everything you build drives towards well-established (and data-based) goals.
In other words, you build a roadmap towards a product that your audience actually wants. That's probably why, according to Forrester Research, organizations that prioritize user experience outperform their peers by an average of 43%.
That's why, to truly grow towards success, UX strategy isn't optional. It's a vital part of making sure that your products, and business as a whole, are spending all of their resources on solving actual customer problems.
So much for the why. You have your case for building the UX strategy. Next, we'll tell you how to do it.
At its core, building your UX strategy is a four-step process. But it's also iterative. The fourth step automatically leads to the first step, and the cycle repeats. You'll see what we mean.
Start this process early. Get all the buy-in you need, making your case as described above, well before you start designing an actual product. Then, walk through these steps to maximize your chance at a positive UX by the time the product is complete.
Step 1: Gather Relevant Information
As with so much in business, the first step is user research. Simply put, you need to gather and structure lots of information to make sure every decision after this one is grounded in data.
Your goal: to understand as much as you possibly could about your audience, their customer journey, their pain points, and their wants and desires. That's not easy, but you can follow a few simple steps to get there.
First, you can conduct basic customer surveys. Make sure you have a representative and large-enough sample, then ask simple questions about your industry. Build a profile of your audience that's both demographic and psychographic.
Of course, you can also get more specific. Along with quantitative survey data, invite current and potential customers in for focus groups.
Pose a few general questions, and see how they direct. Focus the conversation on your business and the problems you're trying to solve. If you have a prototype, you can show it to them here to get some initial reactions.
Finally, leverage electronic data through processes like user behavior tracking. Try to understand how your audience typically finds your business, and how they interact with you once they do. You can also expand this exercise far beyond your own website for additional insights.
If you have a product or prototype, get it in front of your audience and gauge reactions. But you don't absolutely need it for this initial phase. All you need is as much information as you can get about your audience to start mapping their user journey along with the problems they're facing.
Step 2: Define Your Goals
You have the data. Now, it's time to analyze it. That's best done by driving towards the specific goals you want your UX strategy to accomplish.
For your user experience strategy to be successful, these goals need to be intentional and specific. Your product, just like your company, won't (and shouldn't) be everything to everyone. Instead, it should solve a very specific need. This is where you define how you can get there.
Goals MUST Be Specific Objectives.
Think of goals as your specific objectives, the things to aim for in order to call your product design a success. In other words, they make sure you can easily get from point A (no product) to point B (a successful product that solves audience problems).
Goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely. (hey, that spells SMART!) Beyond those parameters, there are almost no limits to where the data could lead you:
- You can set a goal of optimizing your entire user journey for speed, minimizing the time it takes to get from first discovery to using your product.
- You can set a goal of optimizing functionality, keeping the product's extraneous features at a minimum to get straight to the point and solve the problem.
- You can set a goal of making the product stand out visually, which matters when it usually appears in the context of its competition.
- You can set a goal of responsiveness, extending the user experience into the interactions (like customer support) your audience will have with you after the initial buy.
We could keep going. The key here is not to come up with some goals on your own. Instead, it's about leveraging the data you've gathered, setting your goals to respond to your audience's actual, observed, and proven problems.
Step 3: Start Building Something Great
You're getting close. With your user experience goals in place, it's time to start building. That's easier said than done, of course; but it's a heck of a lot easier if you know exactly what you're building towards.
Start With Your Key Features
What are the core pieces of the product or website you're building, the pieces that most closely match your value proposition, and your audience's needs? Define those early, then make sure everything else orbits around them.
Don't stop there, though. Great user experience design means getting every little detail right. It means making sure that every touchpoint you have with your customers is a positive one, building loyalty, and goodwill in the process.
Don't Be Afraid To Widen The Project Scope
Look beyond what you're building, and into your audience's context when they'll interact with you. Then, build something specifically designed to fit and match within that context.
Work Within Your Means
Don't go above and beyond what you're trying to do. Start with the simplest, most straightforward way to achieve your audience's (and your own) goals.
That means always keeping your requirements and your goals in mind. It also means keeping a close eye on your budget to make sure you don't exceed it.
But in the meantime, never forget the core lesson: to always build your product with your users front and center.
Step 4: Measure & Improve Over Time
You've almost made it. At this point, your UX strategy already includes the building process. But it doesn't end there. Like everything else in life, it tends to loop around.
Don't Be Afraid To Question Yourself
Don't just assume that your initial user research and goal setting was perfect. Instead, start to track everything you do against success benchmarks. Measuring your work helps you discover blind spots, make tweaks, and improve your product over time.
A good UX strategy is only as good as its execution. And you only know how good that execution is if you are able to measure it.
You already know how your audience feels about you. That's your baseline. Now, use the same mechanisms to see whether you can track any improvements in these attitudes over time.
Set New Benchmarks
You can also bring in other benchmarks. For web design, for instance, KPIs like bounce rate, time on page, and conversion rates can be incredibly helpful. They all tell you how your audience is interacting with your product (the website), and where you might need to improve.
Rinse & Repeat
And so the wheel keeps spinning. Step four leads directly into step one, which leads to setting new or adjusted goals, building something new, and tracking it again. This type of iteration is crucial to make sure that over time, you work towards the best possible user experience you could give your audience.
If you're curious how this strategy could practically be applied to your website, we suggest checking out some of our key posts from our website optimization series.
Building UX strategy is not a simple concept. At first glance, it can actually seem quite complicated. But that doesn't mean you should avoid it. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Yes, you're spending extra time and money on a process that you could just circumvent. But think about what happens if you circumvent it. You're flying blind, building a website or product that might never actually solve your audience's problems.
UX strategy is an intentional effort to improve the way your audience feels about your products and your brand. It takes a concept like innovative website design, and adds a simple descriptor: innovative website design that satisfies your audience.
In the process, you get significant long-term cost and time savings, along with the improved ROI mentioned above. That combination makes UX strategy far from optional. It becomes an essential component in everything you do.
Yes, you'll need market research. Yes, you'll need to spend some time setting your goals. And yes, you'll need to invest in tracking and improving your efforts over time. But what you get in the end, a tangibly improved user experience leading to increased business success, is well worth that effort.
Even better, a comprehensive UX strategy can guide all of your future efforts. Those web design tips you've read about? In the context of strategic prioritization of your user experience, they'll become that much more effective.
So, whether you outsource your UX or plan to do it in-house, the investment you make will pay off significantly over time.
Over to you: do you have experience with UX strategy, and what results have you seen after implementing it? Let us know in the comments. Let's start a conversation on the merits of the concept, along with its benefits.