What is a UX strategy? (And how to define yours in 5 steps)

UX strategy defines the vision for the product you’re designing, ensuring business goals and end user needs are met. Learn how to write your UX strategy here.

What is UX strategy? How to define yours and put it into words

UX strategy is the foundation of good UX. It maps out a pathway to success for the product you’re designing, fosters internal alignment and a shared vision and helps to create a consistent, cohesive experience for your users.

But what exactly is a UX strategy and how can you go about defining yours? We’ll show you.

Read this guide to discover everything you need to know about UX strategy, including:

What is UX strategy?

UX strategy is a key component of UX design. So, before we define what UX strategy is, it makes sense to first set out a definition of UX.

UX design is the process of designing solutions to specific user problems. These solutions usually take the form of products (such as websites, apps, cosmetics, smartphones and so on) or services (such as banking, healthcare, airline check-in etc).

However, UX design isn’t just about creating the solutions themselves. It’s about ensuring that the entire experience the user has in relation to that product or service is positive. UX stands for “user experience”, so it’s essential to consider all the different factors (or touchpoints) that shape this overall experience.

The goal of UX is to meet the end user’s needs but it’s necessary to balance those with the needs of the business. The product or service you’re building should also contribute to the achievement of business goals and it should evolve in a way that’s consistent with the overall brand.

That’s where UX strategy comes in. UX strategy sets out the big-picture vision for the product or service you’re designing. It incorporates business objectives and end user needs to guide the work of the UX team towards the fulfilment of both.

A UX strategy essentially asks:

  • What do our end users want?
  • What are our business objectives?
  • What is our brand identity?
  • How can the UX design team create and iterate on products/services/features that satisfy all of the above?

A UX strategy is a vision, a plan of action and a set of guidelines all in one. It acts as a guiding star for the UX team, making sure they consider both the business goals and the end users in every design decision they make.

Why do you need a UX strategy?

A UX strategy is beneficial for everyone: the end user, the UX team and the business. Without it, you’re basically travelling aimlessly with no real idea of where you’re going, how you’ll get there or whether or not you’re making good progress.

Here’s why a UX strategy is so important:

  • It keeps you focused on the user. A UX strategy is devised with end user needs in mind, ensuring that you’re solving the right problems for the right people. That translates into happy, loyal customers—which ultimately results in a stronger brand reputation, increased sales/conversions and a competitive edge in your market. All good news for the bottom line!
  • A UX strategy provides direction. You can’t solve every single user problem or implement every single idea you’ve ever had. As a UX designer, you’re always operating within certain time, budget and technical constraints. A UX strategy provides a clear guideline for what’s important, enabling you to make decisions and prioritise your efforts and resources accordingly.
  • It highlights (and quantifies) the value of the UX team’s work. It’s not always easy to get stakeholder buy-in for the work you’re doing in the UX team. You’re well aware of the value of UX but others in the business (including the leadership team) may not be, which can make it harder to move your projects forward. A UX strategy directly ties your work to the achievement of business goals, highlighting the importance of what the UX team does and helping to make your impact visible and measurable.
  • It fosters company-wide alignment and a shared vision. A UX strategy sets out the overarching vision that everyone should be working towards. Having this clearly articulated and always available as a reference point ensures that everybody is on the same page and making decisions with the same end goal in mind. Not only does this facilitate internal collaboration; it also helps to provide a cohesive and consistent brand experience for the customer.

If you weren’t convinced about the importance of UX strategy before, you should be now. Next, let’s consider the core components that make up an effective UX strategy.

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What are the elements of a UX strategy?

The Nielsen Norman Group identifies three core elements that make up a UX strategy: vision, goals and a plan.

The ‘vision’ part of your UX strategy defines where you want to go and why. It’s the ideal end state of your product or service and it’s the destination you’ll always be working towards.

The ‘goals’ component outlines how you will benchmark and measure your progress towards the overarching vision. Goals should be more specific than the vision itself and they should be actionable and measurable. So, when defining your goals, you’ll also attach key results and metrics to them. Goals should be framed in relation to both the end users and the business.

The final element, your ‘plan’, sets out the actions you’ll take to achieve each of your goals. It may also include estimated timeframes and dependencies. Bear in mind that the plan included in your UX strategy shouldn’t be overly specific, nor should it be seen as set in stone. Rather, it gives a broad overview of what needs to be done, with exact tasks and action points to be figured out by the UX team along the way.

A UX strategy example

Based on the framework set out by the NNG, let’s consider a hypothetical example of how a UX strategy might look. We’ll pretend we’re defining the UX strategy for a startup which provides a platform to connect parents/carers of primary school age children with local tutors.

Vision:

  • Provide a safe and convenient tutor/pupil pairing experience for tutors and parents/carers.

Goals:

 

User goal1 : Increase parents’/carers’ access to tutoring support

  • Business goal: Increase the number of parents/carers signing up for membership
  • Key result: 25% increase in new user sign-ups

User goal 2: Improve the quality of tutor/pupil pairings

  • Business goal: Reduce the number of requests to switch tutor
  • Key result: Decrease ‘switch tutor’ requests by 70%

Plan:

  • Review current data for new user sign-ups in the last six months
  • Conduct competitor research
  • Conduct user research to identify product gaps
  • Review current marketing initiatives
  • Review current process for pairing tutors and pupils/parents/carers
  • Conduct user research to identify most common reasons for ‘switch tutor’ requests
  • Review tutor vetting and quality assurance process

That’s just a hypothetical example of a UX strategy. How will your UX strategy take shape? Follow our guide in the next section and you’ll soon find out.,

How to define your UX strategy and put it into words

Here’s how to come up with, and articulate, your own UX strategy.

1. Identify the business goals
Your UX strategy will make sure that you’re designing with both the end users’ needs and the business goals in mind. So, the first step is to get familiar with what the goals of the business are.

Speak to stakeholders from different departments (including the leadership team) to understand the overarching company mission and values, as well as how different teams are defining and measuring the success of the product.

At this stage, it’s also worth conducting competitor research (or going over any existing research data you’ve got). This will help you to better understand the market you’re competing in and spark ideas for how you’ll differentiate.

2. Identify the end user’s needs and goals
The next step is to bring in the end user’s needs. You’ll already be doing user research as part of your usual UX process and it’s essential to lean into those insights (and deepen them, if necessary, with further research) as you define your UX strategy.

And, with your strategic hat on, start thinking about ways you might evolve your product to satisfy both user needs and business goals.

For the next three steps, refer back to the framework we laid out previously (in the section titled “What are the elements of a UX strategy?”) and use our UX strategy example for inspiration.

3. Craft your vision
You’ve laid the groundwork and now have both business goals and end user needs fresh in your mind. Now it’s time to start actually putting your UX strategy into words — starting with the vision.

Remember: Your vision defines where you want to go and why. You can use the following formula to guide you:

We want to provide [X type of experience] for [target user group].

4. Break your vision down into goals
With your big-picture vision in place, you’re now going to break it down into smaller, more manageable goals.

Frame each goal in the context of both a user goal and a business goal (as we did in our UX strategy example). A good way to think about it is: What does the business get out of it and what does the user get out of it?

Next, determine how you’ll measure the success of each goal and assign a key metric you’ll be aiming for. For example, if your goal is to make it easier for users to complete the checkout process on your ecommerce website (user goal) and, in doing so, to reduce the number of abandoned cart incidences (business goal), you might aim for a key result of 65% reduction in abandoned cart incidences / a 65% increase in purchase completions.

5. Write your plan
Finally, come up with a plan: the actions and steps you’ll take to achieve your goals.

When writing your plan, remember that it’s not necessary to drill right down to the finer details. At this stage, you’re just outlining broader initiatives you can take to move towards your objectives.

It’s also important to think about a timeline. This will largely depend on how the company operates in terms of goal-setting and reviewing progress. Some companies take a quarterly approach (in which case, you can break your UX strategy plan down in terms of Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4) while others work in shorter cycles.

And remember: Just like UX itself, your UX strategy will require adjustments and iterations. Don’t get too caught up on setting specific goals and timelines in stone. The most important thing is that you have a clear vision that everybody’s aligned on and a plan of action for how to get there. You’ll work out the finer details along the way.

What’s next? Putting your UX strategy to work

Once you’ve defined and finalised your UX strategy, make sure it’s presented clearly and accessibly in a document (or on a shared space) that everybody can view. The goal of your UX strategy is to foster company-wide alignment, so it’s important that everybody knows what it is and where to find it.

Your UX strategy should act as your north star, pointing you in the right direction and keeping you on track as you move through the UX process. Refer back to it regularly and use it to guide — and justify — your design decisions.

UX strategy is just one aspect of a designer’s work. Learn more about what it’s like to work in UX in this example day in the life of a UX designer.

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