UX Strategy explained: A guide for designers

The entire concept of UX strategy with the basic elements, essential steps, and best practices to aid designers in their UI/UX journey.

In the success or failure of any product, one significant factor is always there: the satisfaction of users. Given today’s highly competitive environment, no organization can survive if the needs of its target audience are not met. When it comes to the world of design and user experience (UX), the significance of the end-users gets more pronounced. The whole purpose of UX is to create an overall pleasing experience for the users. From the moment an individual looks at your products to the lasting impression on his/her mind, the entire journey needs to be carefully planned by the UX designers. This is one of the many reasons that user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design are vital for any organization, product, or service.

For any design to be helpful, useful, and usable, some of the questions to consider are as follows.

  • Can the users easily find and interact with the product or service?
  • Does the design meet the needs of end-users?
  • Does the design perform as expected or anticipated by the users?
  • How do the users feel during and after an interaction with the design?
User Experience (Source: INK Blog)

All these questions require a lot of research and planning. This is why UI/UX designers, along with other things, need to be good planners and strategists. At a first glance, one might question the importance of planning in UI/UX design. Studying the lifecycles of various products, the steps followed by design agencies, and the journeys of users, however, provide enough reasons to understand this importance. When it comes to products and services, humans are unpredictable and not so easily satisfied. It is, therefore, important to analyze their perceptions at each stage of the product life cycle and make adjustments so as to ensure success.

What is UX Strategy?

UX strategy lays the guiding principles of the entire design process. A comprehensive UX strategy is a carefully laid out plan that covers all the interactions of an individual with a product or service. Whether you’re creating a mobile application, revamping a website, or adding features to electronic equipment, it will not be wrong to say that UX strategy forms an integral part of your project. Understanding UX strategy and the best practices for devising a good strategy are, therefore, essential for a UI/UX designer.

There are numerous working definitions highlighting the key aspects of UX strategy. Leading UI/UX organizations modify the definitions, and sometimes create their own, as per their needs. One thing, however, is constant that to ensure discipline in design, UX strategy is essential. Let us demystify the concept of UX strategy by focusing on some key elements found in all definitions.

“UX” and “Strategy”

It is impossible to grasp the concept of UX strategy before first understanding user experience. UX, a pretty common term in the design industry, takes a user-centered approach when it comes to the design of a product or service. UX covers the entire journey of users as they interact with and benefit from a certain product. User research, therefore, is central to the entire practice of UX design where the end goal is to maximize the satisfaction of users.

The other important concept to get familiar with is that of “strategy”. While working on any project, irrespective of the industry, “strategy” is one of the most frequently used terms. Defining a strategy, devising a strategy, updating the strategy, and clarifying the strategy are the phrases all of us have heard more than once. The widespread use of the term indicates its importance in the success of any mission. Strategy, however, is seldom understood properly. A good strategy is one that “provides a clear roadmap” needed to achieve a particular set of goals. For the success of any project, it is important that the strategy is free of ambiguities and is communicated clearly. Where, then, do UX and strategy overlap?

Like any other task, a design project heavily relies on the strength of its strategy. UI/UX designers are constantly modifying and updating their designs based on the needs, expectations, and feedback of users. A comprehensive UX strategy aims to minimize the complaints and to increase the usability of a product. After carefully understanding the needs of users and specifying the goals of a product, a designer then creates a comprehensive UX strategy to guide the entire design process.

Questions for UX Strategy

UX strategy provides answers to the most important questions of a user’s journey when interacting with a product or service. Some of these questions include the following.

  • Who are the target users of the product or service?
  • How will the users interact with the final design?
  • What are the objectives of the product or service?
  • Where does the design stand now with respect to the goals?
  • What are the gaps between the current and the expected outcome?
  • What do the users expect from the product or service in terms of their needs?

All the major concerns of the design thus need to be addressed when devising a UX strategy as it serves as a lighthouse in the entire process.

The entire user journey

UX strategy is neither restricted to a single phase of the design process nor it is focused on a particular interaction of users with a product or service. The strategy demands care and research as it governs all forms and aspects of the user’s experience. From finding the product and getting acquainted with it to using it on a daily basis and recommending it to others, UX strategy is vital in all instances.

Three important points touched by a UX strategy are the look, feel, and usability of a design.

Entire User Journey
Look

The appearance of any object dictates the first impression which, in all design projects, goes a long way. It is for this reason that UI/UX designers always focus on the aesthetics of any product. The look, along with creating a strong impression on the minds of users, also ensures credibility and trust. The visual elements of all organizations, therefore, hold great value in design projects. For a comprehensive UX strategy, therefore, the quality of appearance is a significant factor.

Feel

The feel factor in UX strategy is where all the interactions of users reside. UI/UX designers need to be very careful in making the users feel good and comfortable when they interact with any product. The joy of using a product, or the lack of it, has a strong impact on the satisfaction of the audience. Hence, in a discussion about UX strategy, one can never rule out the feelings of users.

Usability

The third important driver in a user’s journey is usability. It is the extent to which a product is easy to use and behaves as expected, thus helping the users in accomplishing their tasks. In UX strategy, special emphasis is put on the usefulness and usability of the product as, in the end, the goal is to help the users complete their journey with ease.

A comprehensive UX strategy touches all the abovementioned bases to ensure that there is no dead-end in a user’s journey. By outlining all the important aspects, the interactions of a user with any product are not only simplified but also made enjoyable.

From design thinking to content strategy

UX strategy is a combination of many activities and processes. As per the definition given by Nielsen Norman Group, it includes design thinking, user research, market research, competitor analysis, and content strategy among other closely-related activities.

This shows that UX strategy is not something that you can finish in a day or two. It is also not possible to devise a UX strategy for a design project without any background research. The users, being the most important factor in all such projects, demand due attention. By activities such as design thinking, needs analysis, and user research, a designer can get a better understanding of the expectations and attitudes of users. Similarly, tasks like content analysis, market research, and competitor analysis paint a clearer picture of the real-world problems and their possible solutions.

Activities in UX Strategies

The knowledge acquired as a result of all these practices is then brought together to lay out a plan for the future - one that can steer the design process in a fruitful manner.

A long term plan

Among all the attributes of a UX strategy, the one which goes ignored at worst and misunderstood at best is that it is a long term plan. In many design projects, the strategy lacks vision and can no longer prove helpful after a certain period of time. For a UI/UX designer, therefore, an eye on the future is extremely important.

A good UX strategy is one that holds the promise to improve the user experience over time and to adapt as the needs and expectations of users change. Such a strategy ensures that all the concerns of customers, even the ones that are not quite clear in the present, are given due attention in the design process. This helps in aligning the objectives with the goals of users, thus maintaining a trusted presence.

A long term UX strategy also ensures that all the designers and stakeholders are aware of the bigger picture and can work together to achieve something bigger and valuable. This is important to keep everyone informed as well as motivated as things get complicated and a little frustrating over time.

Elements of UX Strategy

For a UX strategy to be successful, it must take the seven facets of user experience into consideration.

User Experience Honeycomb

A comprehensive UX strategy touches all these seven areas with the satisfaction of users in mind.

Useful

Any design, may it be a product, a service, a website, or a mobile application, must add some value to the life of a user. If a product is not of any use, there is no reason to use it. A UX strategy must ensure that the users get some benefit from a design.

Usable

As discussed above, usability is a key element of UX. Even if a product is of great value but is difficult to use or interact with, the target audience will never be satisfied. In such cases, the users will quickly jump to an alternative as soon as they find it.

Desirable

Desirability is closely linked to the look and feel of any product. If on interacting with any design, the users are left with a good feeling, one that draws them closer to the product, it is safe to say that the UX was done right. Hence, aesthetic elements can never be ignored.

Findable

In order to fulfill the needs of the target audience, the designers must ensure that the interactions with the product are not too complicated. In other words, the users should be able to find what they are looking for with minimum effort and by spending little time.

Accessible

Inclusive design is always the best design. For a good UX strategy, people with all sorts of needs must be kept in mind and aided as much as possible. After all, who doesn’t want more users?

Credible

The information provided to users as they interact with certain design elements must be authentic and not misleading. For an organization to gain the goodwill of users, it is important that the users trust the information coming out of it. Therefore, UX strategy must be based on the principle of integrity.

Valuable

When it comes to design projects, value and usefulness generally go hand in hand. If a product or service is useful, it is going to improve the lives of its users and thus gain their trust. The end goal is to maximize customer satisfaction.

The key elements of UX strategy can be applied to any design project. The idea is to have a long term plan where most of the focus is laid on improving the overall experience of users. This will result in better performance and a broader customer base. To see the impact of a good UX strategy, take a look at some of the creative projects completed by Ramotion’s UI/UX Design Agency.

Creating a Good UX Strategy

It will not be just to summarize all the efforts and research that go into creating a good UX strategy. However, the small steps involved in the process can be lumped in the form of bigger milestones to get an idea of the entire practice. There are three checkpoints regarding the creation of a UX strategy.

Phases of UX Strategy

1. Current state

The first big task is to analyze the present performance and state of any product or service. Along with the main features of the product, the needs and expectations of users at a given time are also to be understood with appropriate research. Some of the important questions to ask in this phase are as follows.

  • What are the major needs of users?
  • Which things in the present design work well?
  • What are the pain points of the current design?

2. Finish line

After getting a good understanding of the product and the users, the end goals need to be clarified. The expectations from a design in the future must be set in a realistic and unambiguous manner. Some questions to ask in this phase are as follows.

  • How should the design behave when users interact with it?
  • Which needs of the users must be fulfilled in the final design?
  • Which aspects of the product or service will be changed and how?

3. How to get there?

Once the starting and finish points are identified, then comes the phase where UI/UX designers have to build a bridge between the two. This is where realistic discussions are extremely important. The designers lay out a clear plan that is then followed, considering the limitation of resources, to create a better experience for the users. The questions to ask in this phase highly depend on the nature of the product. These, however, cover a wide range of areas - from budgets and timelines to responsibilities of individuals and periodic progress reports.

Based on the nature of a project and the teams involved in it, UI/UX designers make adjustments in the strategy. The final version of the UX strategy must touch all the main points discussed above, always giving prime importance to the users.

Best Practices

UX strategy is, indeed, not an easy concept to understand. It can be even trickier to put to practice. There are certain practices that, if followed when creating a UX strategy, can make the design process smooth and fruitful. The best UI/UX agencies around the world stick to these principles thus adding value to their work.

  • Research and analysis: Research is the backbone of UX strategy. To understand the trends in the market and the expectations associated with a product or service, step into the field. Developing a mindset for research will always help in creating a better strategy.
  • Users’ needs: Users dictate the success or failure of any product. When working on a project, particularly any UI/UX design project, always give priority to the needs of users.
  • Goals and objectives: A UX strategy cannot be devised without having a clear idea of objectives in the long run. It is logical to have specific and clearly defined goals before creating a roadmap for the future.
  • Flexibility: Plans get modified, and sometimes even fall through. This can also be the fate of a UX strategy. It is helpful to have a flexible strategy, one that can be altered if needed, based on the changing needs of the users or limitations in the process.

Creating a UX strategy is nothing less than a challenge. However, the promises of rewards - including but not limited to a broad customer base, revenue generation, and trust of the users - make it worth the effort.

Conclusion

UX strategy must be given due attention when working on any design project. A well-crafted strategy can guide designers through the otherwise frustrating process in a systematic manner. This not only adds value to the end product but also makes the whole journey enjoyable. In the modern world, where the value of design and content is on the rise, developing some understanding of UX strategy is essential for any UI/UX designer. It will not be wrong to say that the efficacy of all UI/UX tools will be significantly reduced if not used in a strategic manner. A designer can make a significant impact in the field if he/she is guided by a clear strategy with an appropriate set of skills.