Ask any designer, strategist, or developer (at least the ones at Big Human), and they'll all agree that the user experience should never be overlooked — whether it's on a website, app, or any other digital product. That's because an excellent user experience is required for people to actually want to use your product, particularly in industries where competition is high. While there are many factors and channels — including research, information architecture, and content — that go into how a user interacts within a digital space, there's one overarching concept that accounts for the entire experience: UX strategy.
Think of the UX strategy as the North Star for whatever you're building. It's the shared through-line from competitor analyses to UX design elements and from content guidelines to accessibility. Don't worry, we’ll explain everything you need to know about UX strategy below — including what a UX strategy is and why you need it to grow your business.
UX strategy is a holistic plan that outlines how a product or service will create a seamless and satisfying experience for its users. It encompasses the overall brand or company vision, goals, and methods for consistently delivering user-centered value.
It's also the meeting point of your business goals and UX design. UX strategy outlines how UX design is going to be used to help the project meet the objectives of the business. While it’s not a roadmap for how to make the right UX design for the project, it does serve as a document that is intended to guide designers and others on the team as it concerns the goals of the project and how UX design is going to contribute to meeting those goals.
As a point, it shouldn’t be too long or too complex. It needs to be short enough for a person to read through in just a few minutes, and it shouldn’t contain technical jargon that may not be understood by everyone working on the project. You want it to be a resource that is accessible to everyone.
Having a UX strategy in place is crucial for sustainability, growth, and having an informed plan for customer acquisition and customer retention. As mentioned above, UX strategy isn’t going to be a point-by-point description of what the desired UX should be; it’s a plan that guides the decisions that will be made through the process of designing, developing, and maintaining the best UX.
Think about it this way: Instead of telling designers how you want them to build the UX, the strategy will tell them the goals you want the UX to achieve. It won’t list features or functions. The idea is to create a shared vision of the project to guide the designers. It’s more about describing ideas than giving orders.
Different people have different ideas about UX strategies. At Big Human, we view UX strategy as having four key tentpoles or elements: business strategy, product value, user research, and killer UX design. We see these ideas as the foundation of a solid UX strategy.
Business strategy should always play a vital role in your UX strategy. What is the competitive advantage of your business? What are your objectives? How will your business make money? Your business is building an app or another piece of software to serve some sort of goal. What is that goal, and how can the UX help you get there?
Everyone involved in the project should understand the ways in which the business plans to generate revenue. They need to know what the business wants users to think of the product or the business.
The idea behind any product is to offer value to users. It’s the value that makes them willing to give a business their time and money for the product. Ideally, you’re looking to go beyond offering a product that is valued by consumers; you want to create one that consumers find indispensable.
This thinking behind the product value shouldn't end when you launch, though. You should always be working on a cycle of development that continues innovation with the goal of differentiation and customer satisfaction. This works through the alignment of utility, newness, and lowering costs. When all three align, you can create a leap in value for both the consumer and the company.
Obviously, the user still needs to be at the center of a UX strategy. Before you can pour resources into building a product or release something to the public, you need to know your ideas work — and you need to test them. This typically involves user research and taking the lessons from that research to build a better product or pivot. Then, you can run focus groups to see what potential users think of your ideas. When you have a prototype, you can invest in user testing to see how the product performs in the hands of real users. With every stage of testing, you'll be learning and making adjustments.
The first three tenets all lead to the fourth tenet. By this point, you know how the business strategy fits in, the value you are going to offer users, and if your assumptions have been validated. With that knowledge in hand, it’s time to build the final customer-facing UX that meets the needs of the larger strategy. At this point, designers should be armed with design principles and guidelines to maintain consistency in the user interface and experience. Typically, this involves choosing color schemes, typography, imagery, and layout to create an aesthetically pleasing and cohesive user interface. Content organization, accessibility, and micro-interactions are also taken into account.
Design is integral to creating a positive, effective user experience as part of a comprehensive UX strategy. At the end of the day, great UX design not only looks appealing but also functions intuitively, meets user needs, and aligns with the overall goals of the product or service.