Incorporating an Organization’s Vision into UX Strategy
The vision that a company’s leadership team sets should be the starting place for UX strategy and, thus, the user-centered design (UCD) process. That vision determines the company’s focus and distinguishes the company from its competition. Establishing a UX strategy ensures a unified cross-channel user experience that matches the company’s vision.
Aligning the UX strategy with the leadership’s vision presents challenges when a UX team relies solely on the text of an organization’s business plan. A more effective approach is to engage the company’s leadership in interacting with the UX team directly. It is important to hear what each of the C-level leaders has to say and to be able to ask them questions to judge where consensus exists among the leadership team—and where it is lacking. This is especially helpful in identifying their points of divergence. Taking this approach provides a good reality check to see whether all of the key stakeholders are on the same page. It is far better for misalignments to surface up front rather than for customers to encounter them accidentally down the line.
Another benefit of engaging the leadership early on is that the UX team can take responsibility for communicating how the leadership vision impacts the total customer experience. On the other hand, if a project proceeds without leadership input and buy-in, the chances of its success greatly diminish, and sustained UCD integration and process governance and long-term repeated success become unlikely.
In contrast, when a UX team engages in a dialogue with executives from the start, it brings the total customer experience to the forefront of their minds. Thus, it becomes possible to implement a systematic, comprehensive, and industrial-strength UCD process across an organization.
Strategy Versus Tactics
UCD has traditionally focused on the tactical aspects of designing a user interface. Clearly, tactical execution is essential if a user experience is to be efficient and satisfying to users, but tactical execution is not enough. A quick scan of current UX job posts makes it clear that companies are now seeking UX strategists—not just UX tacticians. Skipping UX strategy or implementing it late in the design process reduces the chances of project success and can even lead to a fiasco.
When an organization leaps straight into design without defining their UX strategy first—and thus fails to incorporate leadership’s vision—they may discover that, even though their design proves to be usable during usability testing, customers have no need for the product or service. In such a case, the project must go back to the drawing board, losing valuable time. No organization can afford to design a usable interface for a service that customers passionately reject.
Accordingly, the strategic and tactical pieces of a UX project must play together well. Strategy has its maximum impact at the beginning of a UCD process. A crucial component of UX strategy is understanding the multichannel experience and synthesizing all of the key customer touchpoints into one cohesive whole. Otherwise, from a user perspective, the experiences of the various channels may be at cross-purposes with each other. For example, the user experiences of mobile devices, notebook computers, a call center, and a kiosk may appear disconnected—especially when they are developed in siloed parts of an organization, which is common. Although the experiences of the different channels do not have to be identical, they do have to be synergistic.
With a UX strategy in place, it’s much easier to blend all of these channels seamlessly in a high-quality, total experience and enable users to switch between them without missing a beat. However, achieving this must be a planned part of a UX strategy because it will not magically work itself out at the end of a project.