Perspectives from the UX Strategy Community
I posed the question, “What does a UX Strategist actually do?” to the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn and received some interesting responses.
Brian Pagán, a UX Consultant in Amsterdam, told me that a UX Strategist uses consumer insights he’s gathered from research, psychology, and UX best practices, takes a consumer-centric approach to helping an organization make strategy decisions, and acts as a change agent within an organization.
Pella Bergquist, a UX Architect in Stockholm, offered the following thought: “What my research-analysis-design process aims at is to facilitate the alignment of a business’s systems to its business plan and strategy, adding the people perspective to the mix.”
Sudip Ghosh, a UX Consultant in China, responded, “It goes all the way from defining the strategic objectives—vision and strategy—to team objectives and tactical plans, as well as execution and monitoring.”
Sudip advocates conducting secondary research to get started with UX strategy, using resources such as company mission, vision, and values; strategic plans and operational plans; annual and quarterly reports; key performance indicators (KPIs); competitor and risk evaluation; organizational charts; analyst reports; and surveys.?
Sudip does both qualitative and quantitative user research to formulate UX plans, then tries to sync his results with other teams across his company who are capturing customer data. “The quality of your research results and insights is that much better when you are working with the other teams. Marketing often has good analytical data, Human Resources has great psychometric tools that you could use in your own research design, and Finance does a lot of metrics.”
Ronnie Battista, UX Practice Lead for Slalom Consulting in New York, added, “While I believe that UX strategy can be effective at many levels in an organization, if you don’t have executive ownership, investment, and communication, your chances of impact are greatly diminished. A true UX Strategist innately understands this and has the business acumen and interpersonal skills to actively seek and build these senior relationships.”
Tom Wood, Managing Partner of Foolproof in the UK, responded in a different, but related vein: “UX strategy is a discipline that has the potential to propel our profession into a new level of value and importance within industry. At the moment, it’s relatively new, with relatively few practitioners dispersed across the world. Anything that allows this field to get oxygen is good. This group [UX Strategy and Planning on LinkedIn] is an excellent example.”
The common themes that I found in these responses are that UX Strategists:
- collect and assimilate customer data to guide design
- ensure that User Experience teams align their direction with their organization’s business plan
- facilitate strategic, customer-centric decision making
- reach across the enterprise to build relationships that help the UX design effort succeed
Perspectives on UX Strategy in Business: Job Descriptions
Another place where I looked for definitions of the UX Strategist role was in job postings for that specific title. Admittedly, there weren’t too many, but the frequency with which they are appearing has been increasing. As you’ll see in the examples I’ve highlighted, there is definitely a common thread among definitions of the UX Strategist role.
Note—I’ve added italics to parts of the following job descriptions for emphasis.
Kohl’s Department Stores recently advertised for a UX Strategist position, using the following job description:
“The UX Strategist is responsible for shaping and communicating Kohl’s user experience strategies and design, often serving as the team advisor responsible for defining the overall UX vision throughout the digital ecosystem. The User Experience Strategist (UXS) will play a critical role in driving the overall UX practice with the Director of User Experience, developing team capabilities, and working as an evangelist and thought leader.
“This senior and versatile position will work alongside UX team-members, program managers, business analysts, technical staff, and visual designers to identify requirements, set design goals, study users, and craft experiences that translate business and user needs into highly engaging experiences. The UXS will possess a passion for digital trends and innovation, combined with a sound understanding of user experience practices, consumers, social networks, and brands. This person excels at identifying the middle point where business goals harmoniously meet consumer engagement and excitement.”
Allstate expressed its view of a UX Strategist role as follows:
“This position will partner with key stakeholders across business units to understand clearly the business needs, customer insights, competitive landscape and define online solutions as well as user experience design to achieve business objectives.
“This person will support Sr. Management in the annual planning and goal-setting process to continue the evolution and innovation of our online capabilities. They will recommend analysis and reporting requirements to all new online strategies to include new site features and functionalities and identify areas for process improvements. … They will be responsible for building strong relationships across business units within Allstate as well as working with outside vendors as needed.”
Red Ventures defined its a UX Strategist role as follows:
“An Internet User Experience Strategist … will be responsible for driving continuous improvement in response rates, sales conversion rates, and average transaction values across our portfolio of Web sites. … The Internet User Experience Strategist will be focused on analyzing performance data to identify and quantify improvement opportunities, generating ideas for user experience and merchandising improvements, setting and managing a testing agenda, measuring and interpreting test results, and making quantitatively backed recommendations on how to further improve campaign performance.
“This position will have exposure and responsibilities across all of Red Ventures’ business units and Web properties. This position requires a progressive, on-the-spot, creative problem solver with knowledge of user experience and online merchandising best practices and testing methodologies.”
NEW Customer Service Companies published an ad for a UX Strategist. Here is an excerpt:
“You will lead the strategic and functional design effort on a variety of projects in a highly collaborative, fast-paced environment. Work closely with senior management, business primes, product and project managers, back-end and Web interface developers to develop best-in-class software and online experiences.”
The same ad defined the following responsibilities for the UX Strategist role:
- “Champion thought leadership and process development by deftly balancing business strategy, research findings, and creative innovation and ideation to generate unique, strategic solutions to satisfy a wide variety of needs and goals; evangelize this strategy through key business units and stakeholders.
- “Create and actively maintain the UX strategy, vision statement, design guidelines, and best practices through proper documentation and supporting illustrations, including storyboards and context scenarios; actively apply to develop high-quality user flows and end-to-end experiences.
- “Support product development processes from beginning to end, including requirements analysis, user research, prototyping, usability testing, and review.”
Karsh recently advertised a Senior User Experience Strategist position for its Denver office. The ad copy was as follows:
“We are looking for a Senior User Experience Strategist to join our rapidly growing, highly collaborative advertising / branding / marketing agency to help craft interactive experiences that connect the sales process and loyalty loop for our clients…. We are looking for a self-starter who can think big, sell ideas, and execute in a collaborative work environment. Someone who wants to mentor, teach, evangelize UX, and grow this position beyond the base expectations as the agency and client base … grows.”
IC Creative advertised a User Experience Strategist position in London that started with the following enticing description:
“Are you a senior or lead user experience designer who would like to leave the design desk behind and move into high-level discussions with project stakeholders / clients about the finer points of user experience and service solution design?”
The common themes among these job postings is that UX Strategists have these responsibilities:
- Define the UX vision.
- Create UX strategies.
- Advance the UX practice within a company.
- Work across business units and departments.
- Analyze quantitative and qualitative user research.
- Synthesize customer data from many sources to identify opportunities and recommend design directions.
- Identify user requirements to shape and prioritize feature sets.
- Connect design strategy to business results.
- Produce a UX roadmap.