UX Strategy Part II – Where does UX fit in and who does it belong to?

UX Strategy continues to be a hot topic in our consultancy world.

More and more businesses now appreciate that building a user experience capability in their organisation is no longer a nice to have but rather a must have. They understand that sound UX policies and practices are essential not only in developing better products but also in driving innovation and growth.  In a previous blog I shared some of my tips on how organisations could start thinking about implementing UX in their companies.  In this blog I would like to focus on two key questions that keep coming up when we are discussing Strategy with clients.

  • Where and How does UX Strategy fit in within the overall business strategy?
  • Who does the UX Strategy belong to? Who has overall responsibility for the final user experience?

Where does UX fit in?

An interesting question arose at a recent presentation by my colleague Stephen Denning who was talking about UX Strategy:

  • Question: Should the UX Strategy be separate from the overall Digital Strategy or even the Customer Strategy for that matter?

Some UX experts such as Jeff Gothelf say no.  He contends “that there is no such thing as UX strategy. There is only product strategy”.

Or perhaps UX Strategy should just be part of the overall Business Strategy and focus on objectives such as putting the customer first etc.?

  • Answer:  My view is  that having a set of UX principles or Vision that clearly articulates what UX means to your company is an important part of establishing a culture of UX within the business. Especially if a company is at the beginning of their UX Journey.

Of course it is important that the UX Vision is connected to a company’s business objectives and that it reflects the core values of a business.    Often when we are working with companies to help them develop their UX Strategy, we use Morville’s Honeycomb as a framework to help them map out what the different elements of UX could mean in terms of their situation.

morville honeycomb of UX
Morville Honeycomb of UX

Who owns the User Experience?

Another interesting question or rather debate, that we often come across is about ownership of the user experiences.

  • Question: Who has overall responsibility (and the ability to make decisions on) the final product features and user experience e.g should it be the Product Manager or the UX Manager/Designer?
two foxes fighting
from flicker D Kingham

Often when UX teams start out they are not given a huge amount of influence or authority over decisions which impact the product or the final user experiences.  This can be especially true in an Agile working environment where the buck stops with the Product Manager who makes all final decisions.

  • Answer:  It depends on the structure within the organisation.  However in my experience teamwork and collaboration within the product team are the keys to success.  The UX Team, Product Managers and specialists such as Head of Mobile etc need to learn to work together in a way that is best for that business.  Defined roles and responsibilities are an important part of making this happen.  And creating practices that support communication and collaboration at all stages of development.

We do see however, that in more mature UX organisations the UX team having more influence over the direction of development. This is often reflected in level of seniority of the UX Team has in these organisations.  And this is reflected also in the emphasis and the energy those companies put into promoting a culture of User Centred Design within their company.

Myself and my colleague Stephen will be talking some more about UX Strategy in two upcoming Conferences.

UX Scotland in Edinburgh, 11-12 June.

UXPA 2015 in San Diego, California, 22-25 June.




What the *UX! User Experience Strategy

How to start thinking about UX Strategy in your Company 

Having been involved in usability and the user experience industry for almost 10 years; it has been interesting to observe how awareness of user experience has grown and how the industry has changed and matured somewhat over the years.

Having moved from setting up usability lab and selling the benefits of usability testing to then becoming part of 14 strong mature UX team in a large company, I had assumed that most companies now understand UX and have established UX practices. Not so. In fact, in my current role as an UX consultant we speak to many companies who are just at the beginning of their UX Journey. They look to us for support in setting up UX processes within their organisations and advice on how they can encourage a culture of UX within their company.  Below are some of my tips on how to start thinking about UX in your company.

diagram of UX strategy
HelloErik Experience Design

Developing a UX Strategy 

    1. Know your current practice: where you are at the moment and where you are not. Take a honest look at current processes and highlight any barriers or broken linkages within your department/organisation.  These are all opportunities to improve.
    2. Measures: Take stock of what measures and KPI’s you are using to monitor and measure success.  Understand what success means in different contexts.
    3. Create a shared understanding of UX: What it means to you and your team and what you think it should mean to your organisation as a whole.  How can it help everyone achieve business goals?  Create and communicate a shared UX Vision.
    4. Get training on knowledge gaps: To help you start with sound UX practices and processes right from the beginning.
    5. Create a plan: of where you want to get to and how you are going to get there.  Lobby business partners for support
    6. Allocate a budget; no matter how small, do not try and start ‘on the cheap’ testing or research.  Commit to running robust quality UX processes that are worth investing in.
    7. Start small; Pick one project where you have a good relationship with the business team and use that to pilot a new process.
    8. Celebrate successes: Show the business what you have done in your wireframes or customer research, show them the processes or insights (particularly if video of customer feedback) and how the product has changed as a result

        “A usability test can produce all wonders of information, yet if the people making the design decisions aren’t aware of what happened, the test has failed”    Steve Krug

    9. Paint the office walls: with UX artifacts such as wireframes, designs, principles, customer feedback.  It is amazing how interested in UX your visitors will become.
    10. Leave your defensiveness at the door and  embrace a culture of  trial and error. Both with your designs and your testing methodologies.  As researchers we see all feedback as learning which not only helps improve our UX methods but also the overall user experience.

And finally remember, take heart…


The role of Customer Journeys in User Experience

It’s about the journey (man), not the destination…

We know that when looking to understand user experience that it is not all just about the usability of an application but figuring out what the user’s prior experiences and expectations are, and how their values and beliefs might impact on their behaviour (Hassenzahl, 2010).    We want to understand the user’s story.   Creating a Customer Journey map or diagram showing all the interactions a customer goes through when engaging with a company is a useful way of illustrating that story.

What is a customer journey?

”Customer journey maps are documents that visually illustrate an individual customer’s needs, the series of interactions that are necessary to fulfill those needs, and the resulting emotional states a customer experiences throughout the process.”
UX Matters 

Customer Journey

Where do customer journeys start?      I want to…

Looking at user’s behaviour and motivations only from the time they arrive at an application is too late. We need to consider their journey from the time they think.. I want to book a flight ticket or I need to find information on.. and think about the different routes users took to reach their goals.
As someone recently described it to me, it’s a bit like getting the tube in London. Many of the passengers are going towards the same destination but arrive there in different ways.  Some stop at every stop, others get off at one stop, do something else and get back on later, while others go straight to Piccadilly Circus.

From a UX research point of view Steve Benford has published extensively on the role of user journeys in complex user experience in 4 different multi technology in museums and outdoors (Benford 2009).    He describes user journeys through ‘trajectories’ which highlight the journeys ‘overall continuity and coherence’.   He notes that interactions are steered by user as they define their own trajectories but the trajectory is also shaped by the environment and experience the user find themselves in.   He also speaks of the influence of group participation in interactive user experiences.

What are the important parts of customer journeys?

  • It highlights interactions or the necessary steps customers take to achieve their goals
  • There is an emphasis on decisions or choice points along the route
  • We are interested in the emotions that influence those decisions and motivate customers to behave and respond in the way they do
  • We want to know what barriers or blockages customers encounter and aim to minimise those
  •  We understand users guides their own story but also that they become a character in a bigger story created by designers. Often there is a tension between the two.
  • Journeys may be taken alone or in groups and may involve encounters with other participants long the way

Why use customer journeys?

They help us convert research findings and analysis into visually compelling stories, which allows us develop use cases and personas which stakeholders can easily understand and interpret.

It allows us to combine data and insight from other areas such as SEO and Analytics to inform overall UX strategy.

And most of all, it keeps the user and their story at centre stage of the whole UX Process.


Hassenzahl, M. 2010 ‘User Experience and Experience Design’, accessed 14 June 2011, from http://www.interaction-design.org/encyclopedia/user_experience_and_experience_design.html

Benford, S., Giannachiz, G., Koleva, B., Rodden, T. 2009 ‘ From Interaction to Trajectories: Designing Coherent Journeys Through User Experiences’  CHI User Experience, April, pp709 -7118

The Measurement of User Experience (part 3 of 3)

In the third strand of my research on Positive User Experiences I am looking at the strategies and tools companies are currently using to conduct usability testing and measure User Experiences.

Some initial observations from the literature and the web:

EVALUATION:  different usability experts find different problems with the same product

DialogDesign,  a Danish Design agency have carried out several research studies over the last number of years on Comparative Usability Evaluation (CUE) investigating how different usability experts review the same product. They found on many occasions, that different usability teams report different usability problems when analysing the same product.

DATA ANALYIS:  informal testing and quick turnaround of results Vs formal testing matrices

Another recent paper looking at Analysis in Usability Evaluations talked to 11 usability professionals about how they conduct testing.   For the  most part, the experts’ analysis did not follow a formal process or structure but rather problem definition and recommendations were based on the expertise of the evaluator. This paper concluded  with a recommendation to develop a research-based analysis resources.

The debate for on-the-fly quick turn-around expert reviews vs more structured (and valid?) analysis continues

MEASUREMENT:  heuristics and guidelines such as those promoted by Neilsen and Krug are popular

In the study above, some of the experts did report the use of established heuristics, such as Nielsen’s.  Another popular expert often mentioned on the web is  Steve Krug and with his usability tips and his ‘common sense’ approach to usability.

METHODS:  common UX/usability tools and methodologies

Some common methodologies mentioned are observation, contextual enquiry, cognitive task analysis, Talk Aloud Protocol, RTA, eye-tracking, scenarios, personas,  interviews, A/B testing, comments, guerilla marketing?, card sorting, story boarding.    Remote testing and testing on multiple devices.

MEASUREMENT:  capturing the bigger picture

In addition to testing for usability errors, many agencies are developing methods and instruments to evaluate UX qualities such as trust, presence, satisfaction or fun. The intention is to better understand user attitudes and how they feel about the overall experience.  To make the experience a positive user experience

REPORTING:  connecting UX to competitive advantage

How to feedback findings to customers?  Reviews, customer journeys, flow charts, wireframes, mock-ups, prototypes.   The aim is to show how  an effective UX strategy can achieve company goals and enable business strategies.

**Got any comments or know of any resources related to this post?   Please leave me a comment!