What Is UX Strategy? Mapping the Path to Success

Written by Coursera • Updated on Jun 30, 2021

Learn more about this critical component of UX design.

A smiling UX strategist in an orange shirt stands with their arms crossed next to their desk in a design office

User experience (UX) design involves the creation of a digital product. UX strategy provides the plan. A UX strategy is a detailed plan to align a company’s brand identity with the desired user experience at every customer touchpoint. To be most effective, this plan should be in place before design even begins.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what defines UX strategy, why it’s an important skill to have as a UX designer, and how to develop a successful UX strategy for whatever product or service you’re designing. 

Four tenets of UX strategy

In her 2015 book “UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products That People Want,” Jaime Levy defines four tenets of UX strategy—key elements that work in harmony to make a strategy effective.

1. Business strategy: These are the company’s guiding principles, as well as competitive advantage, revenue streams, and high-level business objectives. 

2. Value innovation: Companies achieve value innovation by pursuing value for customers (differentiation) and lower costs for the company simultaneously.

3. Validated user research:  Instead of assuming what is valuable to a customer, get direct input from your target users before starting a design. This saves designers and companies from putting time, money, and effort into a product no one actually wants.

4. Killer user experience design: Once the other tenets are in place, it’s time to craft an exceptional user experience focused on the key features of the product. This experience should not only bring value to the customer, but do so seamlessly.

Thinking about starting a career in UX? Start building the job-ready skills you need from UX professionals at Google with the Google UX Design Professional Certificate. Complete three end-to-end projects for your portfolio and earn a credential for your resume in less than six months.

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Why is UX strategy important?

Having a solid UX strategy in place helps ensure that a product team stays focused on solving the right problem for their target users. When you take the time to create a UX strategy, you may find it yields several other benefits as well.

  • It gets executives onboard. A UX strategy ties the planned design directly to business objectives, helping leadership see the value in what you’re doing. 

  • It aligns business goals, user needs, and technological capabilities. This can help prioritize time and resources throughout the design process.

  • It gives clear metrics of success. Knowing what success looks like from the onset—and how you’ll measure it—makes it that much easier to gauge the impact of design decisions to keep the product moving in the right direction.

  • It creates a user-first mentality. Validated user research helps UX team members better understand the user, including their pain points and goals.

  • It connects all touchpoints. UX strategy reminds you to step back and look at all the ways a user interacts with your product or brand. 

How to create a UX strategy

Whether you’re planning to start a career in UX or are already working as a UX designer, the ability to craft an effective UX strategy can be a valuable (and marketable) skill. Before you start your next design project, walk through these steps to build your UX strategy. 

1. Define business strategy through stakeholder interviews.

Get the decision makers and company leaders involved early in your project. As a UX designer, you’re often focused squarely on the user, and rightfully so. This is the time to shift your attention to the business side. 

How is the product you’re designing positioned in the marketplace? What are the company’s high-level goals and objectives? How are stakeholders measuring the success of the product? 

Answering these questions early ensures that when you turn your attention toward the user, you’re doing so with the brand and business in mind. 

2. Identify how to differentiate through competitive research and analysis.

Once you know how to align your design with the company brand and strategy, you can begin to assess where the product lies in the competitive landscape. You’ll have to offer value to get a user to start using your product. Where will that value come from? What’s your competitive advantage? 

Research what’s already on the market to solve this user need, and think about the key features that will set your design apart from other options. 

3. Stay user-centered with validated user research.

Make sure you’re designing a product that people actually want to use. Do this by getting feedback from your target users early. There are several ways you can go about this: surveys and questionnaires, focus groups, A/B testing, card sorting, interviews, or field studies. 

Take that value you think your product will offer, and validate it with real users. If the data doesn’t back up that assumed value, take a step back and rethink your product. 

4. Set specific design goals to get where you want to be.

Knowing where you want to go is just as important as knowing where you are now. Using the data you’ve gathered from both users and stakeholders, define some specific metrics by which to gauge the success of your design. Be specific about what you want to achieve, how you plan to achieve it, and how you’ll know if and when you have.

5. Run structured experiments and iterate on the results.

Designing that dream product that users love often involves a willingness to experiment and fail. As you work through your design, let your UX strategy guide your efforts. Continue to validate both the strategy and your design as you work. Create a minimum viable product (MVP), test it with real users, and improve upon it based on that feedback. 

How do I become a UX strategist?

As more and more companies begin to recognize the value of thoughtful UX design, the roles involved in UX are becoming more differentiated. One of those specialized roles is that of UX strategist. As a UX strategist, you serve as a liaison between the business and the user by helping the design team create user-focused products that fit the company strategy and brand identity.

Since user research is such a critical part of developing a UX strategy, becoming a UX researcher may be a good first step toward a career as a UX strategist.  If you’re interested in moving into the strategy part of UX, these are some skills to develop:

  • UX research: Having a good grasp of qualitative and quantitative research methods ensures you’re able to validate your strategy.

  • Negotiation: Your job will involve balancing the needs of the user with business interests.

  • Design thinking: Having a strong foundation in UX design best practices can help approach design problems more creatively and effectively.

  • Communication: A big part of developing a UX strategy is learning more about business stakeholders and target users.

  • Leadership: As a UX strategist, you’ll often play a leadership role within the design team.

  • Business acumen: Understanding business strategy empowers you to bridge the gap between the user and the company.

Start your career in UX

If you’re interested in launching a career in UX, start building the job-ready skills you’ll need with the Google UX Design Professional Certificate. Learn from top UX professionals at Google, complete three end-to-end projects for your portfolio, and earn a credential for your resume in less than six months.

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Written by Coursera • Updated on Jun 30, 2021

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