2013 saw a lot of discussion around the topic of UX Strategy. In fact, there was at least one conference on the topic and a string of articles. However, all of this activity around a topic doesn’t actually mean it exists.
The reality is that there is no such thing as UX strategy. There is only product strategy.
As a company that makes products, you can and need to have a strategy around your goals as a business and your product lines, as far down in detail as the strategy for each individual product you offer. When we work with clients on new product initiatives, the first thing we do is ask them to think about their holistic product strategy:
- Who are you building the product for?
- What problem are you solving for these people?
- How will you solve it?
- How will you attract initial users?
- How will you retain users?
- How will you make money?
- Who are you competing against?
- How is your product different/better than the competition?
- How will your product look? Behave?
All of these questions need to be considered collectively as a company sets out in new directions. Of course, as any experienced UX professional can see, there are elements of user experience design throughout the answers for all of those questions.
However, to explicitly call out user experience strategy as its own thing falsely assumes that this is something that is not considered in the broader strategic picture. Now I know what you’re all getting ready to say — “that’s exactly why we need UX strategy to be called out and explicitly added to the discussion.”
I would argue a different point — a company has to believe that user experience is part of this broader recipe for success and include it as a continuous part of the product strategy conversation if ux strategy is going to be an influential force.
Design has gone mainstream. Every company wants to be the “Apple of…” something yet very few have taken the time to consider what it would mean to bring design and user experience to that level of quality, polish and internal influence. If the organization is not mature enough in its design thinking (lower case intentional) to invest the time and money required to bring ux design in as part of its holistic strategy, no amount of internal lobbying, seats at tables, new titles, job descriptions nor conferences will change that.
UX strategy is part of product strategy. It is not its own thing. Calling it out as such further isolates designers from their colleagues in “the business” and does nothing to actually drive the value of a holistic user experience into the org’s mainstream conversations. Instead, designers should work to inform a product strategy conversation that considers not only the UX but the business’ and product’s success factors as well.