UX strategy is the process of planning and orchestrating the user experience of a product or service. It's about making sure that all the different aspects of the user experience—from research and discovery, to design and testing—are working together towards a common goal.
While UX design is the process behind creating delightful, user-friendly products, UX strategy is the plan behind the work that determines the direction, deadlines, and metrics for the product.
A good UX strategy helps establish a cohesive experience between a product and the brand as a whole.
Why Is UX Strategy Important?
Without a clear strategy to guide the work, UX design lacks the context it needs to address and solve user experience problems in a productive way.
UX strategy answers the deeper questions of meaning and purpose behind each product, such as:
- Why are we creating this product in the first place?
- What do we want to achieve?
- How will we know when we achieve these goals and objectives?
- Who are we helping with this product?
Once these questions are defined, a product team can benefit from clarity and alignment in their work. Each team member can move forward within their own area of expertise with greater confidence.
Beyond the benefits of team alignment, a good UX strategy also helps your team to quickly overcome obstacles as they arise, such as:
- Lack of team bandwidth: Identify which features need to be prioritized, and which can be set aside for future iteration.
- Inefficiency in user research sessions: Design these sessions around your goals and user personas that are defined within the strategy.
- Decision-making fatigue: A good UX strategy will help you prioritize what work needs to be done and how best to do it.
- Low budget: UX strategy can save you time and money in the long-run by making sure you're focused on the right things.
- Customer attrition: By focusing on creating a great user experience, you can increase customer satisfaction, conversion rates, and loyalty.
A well-thought-out, well-documented UX strategy can supply design principles, company standards and values, insights about customers, and more. UX strategy coordinates and standardizes the work of multiple designers and teams over time. On the business side, it can also lead to better brand loyalty, customer relationships, and sales conversions.
How to Create a UX Strategy
An effective UX strategy requires cross-functional work throughout the company. You'll work with company leaders, stakeholders, and other teams (like marketing and sales), in addition to your own design team to compile appropriate knowledge and data behind elements like:
- Researching ideal customers and the market
- Analyzing the product market, your competition, and their UX design principles
- Understanding the company's goals and mission
- Technical design skills & an awareness of multiple possible UX design approaches
- A vision of a great product experience
While there is no definitive process that needs to be followed when you sit down to create your own UX strategy, there are eight general phases that you’ll work through.
Phase 1: Clarify Your Vision
Why do you want a UX strategy in the first place? Are there past errors or mistakes that you're trying to avoid? Are there specific success metrics that you're hoping to achieve through this planning?
By identifying what it is that you're trying to achieve, you open the door to be able to dial in and answer more specific questions like:
- Do we have the resources to achieve X goal in X time?
- What new talent or tools do we need to achieve our goal?
- Are there any patterns or habits that we'll need to change to make this happen?
- What do we need to know about our users in order to create this product?
Phase 2: Understand Company Goals & Objectives
The second phase of creating a UX strategy is to understand what the company's goals and objectives are. This can be done through a variety of methods, including:
- Reviewing the company's marketing materials
- Interviewing key stakeholders
- Observing user behavior
- Analyzing customer feedback (surveys, NPS scores, etc.)
Once you have a good understanding of what the company is trying to achieve, it's time to start looking at what your users want and need.
Phase 3: Identify Success Metrics
At this point, you've defined what you're hoping to achieve. Now it's time to break it down into specific, measurable, and achievable goals. Figuring out what metrics you'll use to measure success is critical to any UX strategy. Without having a way to measure if what you're doing is working, it's impossible to make data-driven decisions.
Some common metrics that are used to measure success in the UX design process include:
- Conversion rates
- Engagement rates (time on site, pageviews per session, etc.)
- Bounce rates
- Customer satisfaction scores (like NPS)
- Retention rates
- Referral rates/word of mouth
- A/B test results
This might require a bit of research to identify what reasonable UX strategy goals might be for your product and niche. What's important, as you dial in on what you want to achieve, is that you avoid generalized, non-trackable goals like “make the product more user-friendly” or “keep customers around longer.” Instead, rephrase your goals into something that's quantifiable, like:
- 15% increase in conversions from free to paid customers
- 10% decrease in customer churn rates
You might take a look at what competitors are doing, to see if there are gaps or opportunities to stand out and gain a competitive advantage.
Once you've identified which metrics you'll use to measure success, it's time to start thinking about how you can improve them—and that starts with the users themselves.
Phase 4: User Research & Personas
User research is an essential part of any UX strategy. This is the process of learning about your users and what they want from your product. There are many different ways to conduct user research, but some common methods include:
- Focus groups
- Usability testing
There are also a variety of online tools that can be used to supplement your research, like Google Analytics and HotJar.
Creating user personas is a helpful way to keep everyone on the same page when designing for specific user types.
Once you have a good understanding of your users, it's time to start thinking about how you can design a product that meets their needs while also achieving the company's objectives.
Phase 5: Analyze Competitive Advantage
In this phase, you'll take a closer look at what your competition is doing. This includes looking at their UX design, as well as their business model and marketing strategy.
Some questions you might ask during this phase include:
- What are they doing well?
- What are they doing poorly?
- What opportunity do we have to differentiate ourselves?
- What can we learn from their mistakes?
Answering these questions will help you better understand what competitive advantage you have.
Phase 6: Create a Roadmap
A roadmap outlines how you're going to get from point A to point B in your product design journey. It includes a high-level overview of what needs to be done, as well as specific milestones and deadlines.
Creating a roadmap is important because it helps you:
- Prioritize what needs to be done first
- Make sure everyone is on the same page
- Stay on track and avoid scope creep
- Set expectations with stakeholders
There are a few different ways to create a roadmap. One popular method is known as the product canvas, which is essentially a one-page document that outlines all of the key components of your product design.
Another common way to create a roadmap is by using agile methodology, which breaks down your design journey into sprints (short periods of time where you focus on specific tasks).
No matter which method you choose, the important thing is that you create a roadmap that works for you and your team.
Phase 7: Present the Strategy
When you present your UX strategy to stakeholders and team members, you open the door to feedback and critique.
If there are managers or stakeholders who don't understand what UX design is in the first place, you might need to spend a large amount of time sharing more meaningful insight into the role that UX design plays in the product design process, as well as how it contributes to customer retention and revenue.
Regardless of their background with UX design, it's important to maintain a high level of receptivity with the feedback you receive on your UX strategy. A product manager might now understand the ins and outs of UX design, but they also may have a valid concern about elements like bandwidth and prioritizing feature goals for the product.
Phase 8: Implement & Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
After all of the planning and strategy work is done, it's finally time to start designing and building your product. This is where all of your hard work comes together, and you get to see your product come to life.
The implementation phase can be broken down into three main parts:
- Testing & Iterating
As your UX team moves into product development and the UX design process, it's always a good idea to revisit the strategy on a regular basis.
UX strategy is an ever-evolving process. The market for your product might shift. Competitors will emerge and grow. New insights will appear from your user interviews.
In short: there will be many reasons why you might have to pivot your strategy multiple times throughout the course of the project. The more receptive you (and your team) are to revisiting goals, the stronger your product design process will be in the long run.