UX Strategy

What it is, why you need it, and how to do it well

Photo of Jessica Reynolds
Jessica Reynolds UX Designer
13 Dec 2023

So many interactions are online these days that having a UX strategy is a must for businesses.  But what exactly is UX Strategy, and how do you go about implementing it?

What is UX Strategy?

UX Strategy ensures user-centred insights are integrated into the business strategy to help an organisation reach its objectives. It can cover a single product or feature, service or inform the whole business if the UX maturity of the organisation is high. 

Strategy comes before design, and details the vision, goals and plan for how a product or service will be developed in the medium-long term, aligning user needs with business objectives, while working within business limitations (e.g. budget); working with, and sometimes informing, those objectives.

Who is responsible for UX Strategy?

A UX strategist takes ownership of the UX strategy, but typically they need to work with a variety of stakeholders across different departments such as leadership teams, product managers, researchers etc to ensure a comprehensive understanding of user needs and business objectives.

Ideally, you would want a UX Strategist to come in as early as possible whilst setting strategic aims for a product or service to outline an action plan and road map to deliver key strategic initiatives. However, if brought in later, they assess current performance using data and research, helping align offerings with strategic aims. 

Why UX Strategy is so important

 In an experience-led economy, meeting “user needs” is integral to business strategy.  Great customer experience can also be a USP - just look at Amazon and other online experiences that have shifted user expectations.

Not only that, but having a UX strategy makes for a more efficient and effective organisation, providing many associated benefits, including:

  • Reducing the need to re-do costly development work

  • Helping you to identify risk (and when to pivot)

  • Reducing feature bloat (and ensuring you stay aligned with what users want/need)

  • Higher user satisfaction (and therefore retention)

  • Using your budget more effectively each year

  • Being able to build user/customer experience - going from meeting their expectations to really delighting them while using your product. (Or, in the case of non-profits, increasing trust in your platform so users feel more confident and safe.)

  • Evidence based decision making-  data-based insights reduces the reliance on subjective opinions and assumptions.

The risks of not following a UX strategy

Conversely, having no strategic plan can lead to various issues, including:

  • Squandered growth opportunities (due to a low appetite for risk) and wasted development time (due to working on unnecessary features)

  • No prioritisation of key initiatives, and top-down decision-making driven by “the crisis of the moment” - which has a negative impact on talent retention 

  • Reacting to market competition (instead of leading the pack) - which impacts sustainable competitive advantage and leads to pricing pressure

So, now you know why you need UX strategy, let’s take a look at what goes into one...

5 principles that guide UX Strategy

When creating a UX strategy, there are 5 guiding principles:

  1. An authentic vision for the future - This might look like your organisation's vision that guides the company toward a larger goal. Thinking about a ship, it’s where you’re going

  2. A strategic objective - Asking yourself what “How do we get closer to that goal over the next 2-5 years?”. This guides the ship like a map 

  3. An action plan or tactics - This is a coordinated plan or tactics to reach each of these strategic objectives 

  4. Measurability (the key to UX strategy!) - Understanding how you measure success over time. What KPI’s make sense for this project so you can measure success or know when to pivot? 

  5. The right team to execute - This is making sure you have UX professionals to complete the work - from researchers, UX Designers and UI - to achieve those objectives - and ensuring you produce work that has an impact 

It’s also really important to understand the role your particular product (or service) fits in with the broader business strategy. UX falls on the execution side of things so you need to ensure you have (or are at least working towards having) strong, mature UX processes in place in order to deliver on a tactical level, as well as having the right strategy and people in place as you grow.

How (and when) to set a UX Strategy

It is good to think about your strategy at any point in the process, but ideally it should be before any design work starts and when your setting your strategic aims for the year. 

Regardless of whether you’re looking to partner with an external UX partner (such as Fruto), or keeping things in house, there are a few things you can do to help get started:

  • Understand your customers through qualitative and quantitative data

  • Be clear on your vision and strategic aims

  • Ensure you have a road map and plan to achieve each strategic aim

  • Measure the success of each project you undertake by incorporating important metrics throughout your design

If you already have a strategy in place, this will help you to identify whether you need to re-work your current strategy or if what you have is already working to achieve those objectives and the direction you are heading is still one you want to be going in.

If it’s not working, you can refer to your Measurability metrics and KPIs to identify what’s not working for you (and why). This will bring you back to knowing your customer and why they are dissatisfied. Example KPIs could be customer satisfaction, retention rate, or growth.

Identifying when to (re)assess an existing UX Strategy

As with all-things relating to design, UX strategy is an iterative process: You implement, then review.  A UX Strategy is always moving, growing, and being re-prioritised, so it’s important to leave room for growth, changes and adaptation.

You can start this review as soon as you have measurable evidence (e.g. look at your site analytics, or conduct user interviews).

Sometimes it will be obvious that you need to assess or update your existing strategy. For example, if your broader business strategy has shifted, or burgeoning technology advances are starting to become an opportunity or threat.

Likewise, consumer expectations of using digital products are constantly changing. What “delights” one year, may be a “standard” expectation the next. 

The rise and plateau of “personalisation”

Personalisation perfectly illustrates this trend.

Initially, personalised findings and offerings delighted users, but as the digital landscape has evolved, personalisation has become an anticipated feature across various offerings and products. 

It is now viewed as a standard practice that enhances user experiences and saves time.

But even if it seems that you are on the right track, reassessing your strategy helps you identify risks and/or when to pivot (for example, whether you need to realign your tactics, or tweak your strategic objectives), early on - so you don’t waste time/budget/resources working on unnecessary design and development work. 

Signs your UX Strategy isn’t working

Some of the signs to look out for that might suggest your strategy isn’t working include:

  • Poor alignment with wider teams (such as Sales and Marketing) - are you regularly sharing insights with interdisciplinary teams? (Don’t forget: market research and user research are not the same thing!

  • Misalignment with business goals - If the UX strategy is not contributing to the achievement of broader business objectives, it may need realignment

  • Stagnant or Declining Metrics, if key metrics such as (low) conversion rates, user satisfaction, or retention rates are stagnant or decreasing, it suggests that users may not be finding value in the experiences being implemented 

Lack of innovation - If your product or service fails to keep up with industry trends or innovative features, it may signal a need for a more forward-thinking UX strategy

The need for innovation

The need for innovation

Being effective with what you’ve got helps you to be more innovative.  

This is especially so if you are a company that’s known as being an early adopter, where you may need to innovate and adapt to new technologies sooner in order to fit your brand. (Just be careful not to fall into the trap of being technology-led.)

Who you are as a business should help you to identify how you react to technological advances (and threats) - such as AI and Cyber Security.
Any disruptive technology needs to be considered through the product life cycle, but you don’t want to be constantly changing your strategy, so this should really fall under R&D so you can be thoughtful about what you intend to implement and how it benefits your users and business. 

Working with Fruto to define & execute UX strategy

Here at Fruto, we work with businesses with their UX in a number of ways. Most commonly, businesses look to engage us on their UX projects because they fall into one of two camps:

  1. Something isn’t quite working and they need help better understanding their customers and/or their strategy 

  2. They already have a clear idea and data but need specialist help to execute 

In either case - and especially when working with teams with high UX maturity - we often ‌help outline the UX roadmap based on the clients’ aims.  We then use the vision to set the strategic objectives, both in terms of: 

  • Internal UX strategy - Helping you with your customers, create strategic objectives, then deliver on them

  • Process and people - Ensuring you know what they need to be, and use our team to help scope and recruit your team

Once you have your strategy and people in place, you (or we) can start working on the UX design - whether that’s user research, UX design, interaction design, UI design, or something else such as Service design

Case Study: UX research & strategy partnership

Case Study: UX research & strategy partnership

Taylor & Francis first approached us looking for support with a UI Design project, but this soon grew into a long-term partnership, covering a range of strategic and tactical initiatives across the organisation with a strong focus on UX strategy and user research.

Understanding the help you need

To understand which approach is needed, we begin by doing an audit, asking:

  • Do you understand your customers, their behaviours and motivations?

  • Do you have a vision (for the product)?

  • Do you have strategic objectives for the next 2-3 years?

If the answer to any of these is no (and especially if it’s understanding your customers), we’ll first look at whether we can help resolve these issues. This usually entails using qualitative and/or quantitative data to outline a user journey, then using your vision to set strategic objectives over the next 2-3 years, before moving on to become a tactical partner to help you reach those objectives.

If you already have a clear vision and data (and you know that what you’re creating will bring measurable value to the business and users), we can start working with you as a tactical partner, becoming the UX professionals who support you to reach those aims and objectives.

Often we find that teams think they know the answers, but they do actually need some help defining things better before moving on to help with tactical delivery

Need help with your UX strategy?

Within a product organisation, stages of UX maturity will often impact the kind of strategic approach you can take and what's expected of you. But ultimately, in a holistic way we work with our partners to understand if they know their customers, their behaviour and how they use your organisation's digital offerings. 

We then try to understand if they have a vision and strategic aim and then work out how to get there through coordinated actions and a roadmap. 

We also work with clients as a tactical partner if the strategic goals and roadmap have been set, making sure we - as the UX team - deliver and measure the experience of users within the scope of the objective.

Execution of the strategic plan is key, and as a strategic partner, we help carry out those tactics and initiatives, and/or help you recruit and organise your internal team and process in order to meet those strategic objectives and establish a more mature UX environment. 

If you’re struggling with setting or delivering on the UX strategy for your product or organisation, we’d love to find out more and talk you through how we can help. Get in touch to arrange a call with one of our expert team.

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About the author

Jessica Reynolds

With a background in mental health, Jessica uses her empathetic approach within UX to uncover compelling insights! Jessica holds a Masters in User Experience from Kingston University and has worked across B2B and B2C projects within a variety of sectors such as health, finance, entertainment, e-commerce and gaming.

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