Senior designers and even design leaders are often asked to go more strategic. Makes sense, that’s what more experienced people do to increase their impact and presumably their delivered value. So what should go into a UX strategy? Context matters a lot, but there are some common points to view this.
In short, the strategy should answer: How will we win?
This includes what a win looks like, how we will know we are winning, and what steps are we taking to win. In short, this would be the vision, goals with measurements, and a plan of steps to get there (more about this in UX Strategy: Definition and Components).
In a bit more detail a UX strategy could have the following parts:
- Why this all matters: Background, the situation for this strategy, the strategic context, business goals, product goals. This should also detail how this strategy will improve our advantage and value for our product or for the business.
- Connections: How do the UX strategy and other known strategies align, for example, product (UX strategy might be part of this) or engineering (any big initiatives upcoming that might influence the UX strategy)?
- Vision: at least a vision statement, ideally a sort of experience vision focused on user outcomes. This describes the primary intent for the strategy, the driving force, the flag on a remote mountain top.
- Goals: this could be something OKR styled, so driving goals describing the qualitative changes, along with some indicators of how we do. Aligned with the abstractness of the strategy, can be more concrete or more abstract.
- Plan: Instead of a step-by-step process, more themes, tactics, and focus areas with a rough timeline. Not a roadmap, but something to which for example quarterly goals or activities can be easily connected.
- Principles: maybe an underrated part, guidance on how we are going about the strategy, what trade-offs we might make along the way, and how we are going to collaborate with others to reach our goals. Even-over statements are a good way to describe the trade offs we are ready to make to make the strategy successful.
Of course not detailed here, but a strategy is not something a leader would write in an empty room. It should result from a collaboration with partners from other functions, created together with team members, and include individual aspirations (aligned with the business goals).
Depending on the Frame, the design strategy might look very different. The frames might intertwine, for example improving the team’s UX writing skills to create better onboarding guidance fulfills both org-centric upskilling and working on customer problems. Ideally, the strategy targets multiple perspectives and helps to set priorities.
|Context||A single designer working in a product team||A design leader focused on scaling and increasing maturity||A design team focused on delivering a great product|
|Goal||Describe what’s the approach to the project at hand||How the design team will increase its maturity, improve processes and collaboration||The team sets a vision for the product and delivers features towards that|
|Benefit||Better collaboration with partners, clear approach||Better processes, more skilled team members||Design team drives product improvements|
|Danger||Less flexibility, analysis-paralysis||Less focus on the product, direction is left to be set by other orgs||The team’s approach is messier, less consistent, and less prepared for the future. Burnout danger|
|Main sections||Vision statement, Goals, Metrics, Priorities, Tactics, Timeline.||Vision statement, Goals, Metrics, Priorities, Tactics, Teamwork||User research, personas, journeys, Experience vision, Goals|
|Format||1 page or less||1 page with quarterly goals.||Executive style presentation with more narrative|
For the right framing, consider:
- The maturity of the product: If the product is new and still in development, it may be more beneficial to focus on product capability. This will allow the design team to quickly iterate on the product and improve its usability.
- The target audience: If the product has a specific target audience, it may be more beneficial to focus on the customer. This will allow the design team to understand the needs and goals of the target audience and design a product that meets those needs.
- The resources available: If the design team has limited resources, it may be more beneficial to focus on the design team. This will allow the team to focus on developing their skills and processes and improving their collaboration with other stakeholders, making space for more resources.
A strategy’s value mostly just shows as a lagging indicator - is the team or the org or the company more successful, is the UX better, do we have happier users? As this might only emerge in the longer term, the strategy can be evaluated (via What makes a UX Strategy successful) by answering:
- Is it Brave?
- Is it Clear?
- Is it Grounded?