3 Ingredients for a Successful UX Strategy
The role of a designer in creating great UX can be a tricky one – having to find the sweet spot where user needs, business goals and technical feasibility intersect. On many projects, a strategy phase which provides the opportunity to reach clear alignment on the scope and goals of the work is often non-existent or very limited. This can lead to costly misunderstandings and backtracking further down the line.
In the absence of a robust strategy phase, there are a few key areas that warrant some consideration at the outset of any project. There are several canvases out there, such as the UX strategy blueprint, that can assist with this type of work. However, at its simplest, a UX strategy can be boiled down to three key considerations.
Understanding the key goals of the business, client, or project is critical. What would success look like? There may be several agendas or desired outcomes at play; clearly naming and prioritizing these will make decision making during the design phase much easier.
In the context of client work, it is important that the interface and user experience meet business goals, as well as user goals. Common business goals include increasing conversion, reducing bounce rates, increasing time on page, and reducing drop offs during an ecommerce flow.
Along with understanding what the goals themselves are, having a clear picture of how success will be measured helps to assess the user experience over the long term. Setting current state benchmarks or collecting snapshots of current state data needs to be done at the outset of the project.
Put the ‘user’ in ‘user experience’. Every UX strategy needs to include an understanding of the intended audience for the website or product. Great UX simply cannot happen unless the design work considers the user – their needs, wants, and behaviours.
User goals refer to what a person is trying to achieve when they interact with the thing that is being designed. A common way to frame these goals is through the user, which often takes the following format:
As <type of user>, I want <some goal>, so that <some reason>.
The best way of understanding user needs is to undertake a UX research phase, where research is conducted with people who fit the targeted user types . While the degree of that takes place will depend on time and budget constraints, it is crucial to find out as much as possible about the end user and their goals. A persona is an example of a possible output of a UX research phase.
For websites, analytics data can be a good source for information about demographics, languages, browsers and platforms. Marketing departments often have information about the intended audiences, and it is worth checking what might already exist. Best of all is getting up close and personal with end users. You might be able to do this through contextual inquiry, interviews or informal testing of existing products/sites.
The final piece of the puzzle in a UX strategy is the pragmatic side of the equation. Having grasped business and user goals, the user experience must be shaped into one that is achievable within the technical and practical constraints of the project.
The platforms that are being designed for will impact which design patterns are used. Users will be familiar with platform conventions of their device and sticking to these can aid in creating a frictionless experience. Technical constraints may also impact what types of interactions are possible – HTML5 has different capabilities to platform native applications. A further consideration might be the rigidity of certain database fields, particularly when designing forms.
As well as technical feasibility, content and accessibility deserve a mention. Without content to fill the design, the user experience is meaningless. Copy and images will need to be created and/or selected. Checking in on where this process is at and who is responsible will save costly delays. Content also needs attention from the outset, especially the legal requirements that may apply to the project. Selecting the tools that will be used to consider accessibility in the project workflow will also help – color contrast checker and HTML code sniffer are great places to start.
Every project needs a basic strategy/Great UX starts with strategy
In summary, there are some basic considerations to before diving into designing a user experience. While there may not be opportunity for a full strategy phase on every project, keeping the three key aspects of business goals, user goals, and feasibility in mind will go a long way to getting off on the right foot.