Developing an experience design strategy

As UX specialists we often tend to focus on the U in UX. But what about the business side of things? How to integrate the user experience with a business’s objectives? A story about experience design strategy.

At Valsplat we help our clients to design valuable digital products and services. We gather customer needs on a structural basis, integrate user research into product development and help companies to establish a customer-centered culture. Increasingly, our clients need our help in the earliest stages of idea generation and product development.

This is where experience design strategy comes in: the field defined as a combination of UX design and business strategy. How to create products and services that people need and want? How to innovate? And how will your new digital product help your organization to achieve its goals? This is about more than user experience alone, since we need to bring business and design together.

UX STRAT masterclass

Last month we joined and hosted a masterclass by Paul Bryan, a user experience strategist, researcher and the organizer of the UX STRAT conference series. On an inspiring day, he learned us all about developing an experience strategy and how to connect business to design. Paul’s approach consists of three steps:

1. Align experience design with the business

Experience strategy is primarily about aligning user experience design with business goals. Paul shows us how business and design, two traditionally seperate fields, are rapidly converging. Apple, the most valuable company of the world, has been design-led from the start. IBM has been widely praised for its design thinking approach. Amazon, clocking a $107 billion dollar revenue in 2015, puts the customer at the center of everything it does. These companies manage to align business and design, and succeed in delivering great user experiences while also being succesful from a business point of view.

So how do you, as a UX designer, specialist or strategist (or whatever fancy name you call yourself), start this alignment? First of all, you need to analyze the business strategy documentation of your client. Get your hands dirty and dive into the world of annual reports, market data and operating plans. Just like you need to know all about customers and their needs, you have to know all about the business and what it aims to achieve.

Second, you need to determine the top business priorities that can be supported by design. By talking to people from the business, you can pinpoint the challenges that intersect with UX. What are important customer touch points and how do they connect to the business goals of the organization? How can design help to achieve these goals?

You end this first phase with a competitor analysis. Create a set of competitors that are relevant to your business and rate the experience they offer from the perspective of their customers. This is a great way to identify strenghts, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. You should always try to learn from best practices. Why reinvent the wheel?

2. Create an experience model that gets smarter over time

The second step in Paul’s framework is to create a data-driven experience model. This model should evolve continuously, based on the user input you gather on a regular basis.

Conducting proper user research is key to this phase. Both quantitative and qualitative sources are relevant: analytics, customer support logs, usability testing, surveys, diary studies, customer interviews etc. The goal is to collect data that will provide you with a deeper understanding of the customer and the context in which your product is used.

The insights you gather make up the Customer model. Its purpose is to ‘standardize the capture of data over time, to develop deep understanding that will drive the experience design strategy’, according to Paul. By reviewing metrics from specific audience segments you can track customer behavior based on their most important attributes. For instance, if your customer segment involves travellers, frequency of travel will probably be a relevant KPI.

2.1 Customer experience mapping

Another step in creating the experience model is to map your customer’s experiences in an overview of relevant touch points and interactions. Doing this builds knowledge and consensus across your organization, and the map helps build seamless customer experiences. It also helps to identify components that are missing or aspects that need improvement.

3. Develop the experience strategy

In the final stage it all comes together. Paul’s approach to building the experience design strategy consists of three building blocks:

  • The primary customer segment targeted.Who are the people you’re trying to pursue? The input derived out of the user research, the business priorities and experience map will help you focus on the right target group. It’s important to go for a specific segment, the one that is most relevant to your business. Targeting smaller segments helps to gain deeper understanding into specific needs and desires. It brings focus to product development and helps teams to make the right design decisions.
  • Your unique customer value proposition.In what way will the product or service be unique? Why will your target group prefer it over its competitors?
  • Experience design guidelines.It is important to state a set of guidelines that embody the strategy for all products and services of the company.

‘A key goal of experience design strategy is to be involved in building the rationale for requirements generation.’

Paul Bryan

Your strategy is an important tool to communicate your vision for the product to the rest of the company. Paul calls this ‘having a North star’ which aligns all teams to work towards achieving the same goals.

Recap

Design and business should no longer be regarded as two seperate fields. An effective experience design strategy shows you where and how user needs and business goals coincide and reinforce each other. It helps you to pinpoint opportunities and it provides you with a concrete game plan for designing the right product or service, aimed at the right customer segment.
Want to know more about developing an experience design strategy? Let’s have a cup of coffee!

Written by Wouter Boer. Thanks: Marijke, Jeroen, Stijn, Bjorn, Evert, Joris and Paul Bryan. Our blogs also appear on Medium