Many product & design teams make user experience (UX) design decisions on the fly as they’re building products and experiences, where these products tend to lack purpose, cohesion, and ultimately, they’re less successful. The underlying reason is that these teams lack a UX Vision & Strategy to guide them along the way.
Let me walk you through how you should lay the groundwork for all design decisions by defining your UX Vision & Strategy…
Step 1: Review the Product Vision
Let’s start by reviewing the Product Vision – which is created by the Product Manager – because it articulates the product’s raison d’etre, or the purpose of its existence, in one concise sentence. It also includes the target audience, audience needs (i.e. what problem are you solving for them?), solutions (i.e. how are you solving the problem?), success factors, and unique differentiators. This will provide the necessary insight for understanding the product, and where and how to focus your UX Vision & Strategy.
Step 2: Research and Develop User Personas
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to research and develop the User Personas. The purpose is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments to help guide your team through key product decisions. Your Personas should be based largely on qualitative research, so get off your butts and go talk with your users! You can also gain insight into users with quantitative user research via surveys, analytics, etc., but it’s preferable that you talk with users directly.
I recommend creating Personas for the primary target audiences for the product, narrowing it down to the most important 2 or 3 segments. The goal of Personas is not to represent all audiences or address all needs of the product, but instead to focus on the major needs of the most important user groups. The key aspects of a Persona include:
- Fictional name (e.g. Bobby Browser, etc.)
- Persona Group (i.e. customer segment name)
- Job title and major responsibilities
- Demographics: age, education, ethnicity, and family status
- The goals and tasks they are trying to complete using the product
- Their physical, social, and technological environment
- A quote that sums up what matters most to the persona as it relates to your product
- Photo or drawing that’s representative of their group
One last note worth mentioning is that the best type of Personas can be quantitatively measured in your product once it’s launched.
Step 3: Market Research
With your Personas defined, you’ll need to conduct market research to identify the current user experience challenges that inhibit the effectiveness of your primary Persona’s current experience with other products.
Additionally, you’ll need to identify user experience technologies and trends that should be considered for inclusion in your product.
Step 4: Create the UX Vision
The UX Vision is an idealized view of the experience that users will have with the digital product and experience, and is included in the product roadmap your company follows. It captures the critical elements of the user experience and articulates the “winning idea” by focusing on the experience and downplaying the technology required to build it.
You can create the UX Vision by answering these targeted questions:
- What type of user experience do you want your customers or users to have?
- How will it support them in achieving their goals?
- How will it help your company to achieve its goals and build your brand?
Once you’ve answered these questions, one great approach I use to articulate the UX Vision is by telling a story. It’s an extraordinary way to communicate design concepts because they focus on the user’s experience with your product while downplaying the implementation details. This means the “winning idea” is self-evident.
Step 5: Establish the Design Principles
Design Principles are first principles that guide each design decision you make as you’re working on a product, and provides the necessary focus to create a kickass aesthetic and experience that’s consistent throughout the product that your users will absolutely love. These principles will encompass all design activities, from user experience design to visual design to interaction design; however, you can create separate principles for one or more design areas if you don’t believe the design principles are specific enough to a certain area.
To get started, thoroughly review the Product Vision, UX Vision, and Personas to reveal the characteristics of the product that will drive the design, answering these questions during your research and team discussions:
- What are the primary needs of your users? Any special needs?
- What types of products do your users currently use? Are there any design principles that you can pull from those products that would fit well with your product?
- What are the typical physical, social, and technological environments that your users will utilize your product? How does design inform those environments?
- What type of information does your product display? Is it one type or different types (e.g. photos, financial, technical, news, historical, etc.)? And how much data needs to be displayed?
- Does your product encourage certain behaviors (e.g. sharing updates, buying goods, taking notes, etc.)?
Consider reviewing these examples – pulled from Design Principles FTW – if you’re still in need of inspiration:
- 20 Guiding Principles for Experience Design
- First Principles of Interaction Design
- Apple iOS 7 Design Principles
- Microsoft Design Principles
- PayPal Design Principles
- Airbnb Design Principles
Step 6: Create the Interaction Model
This step involves creating a representation of the interactive behavior of your primary Persona(s), which are typically in the form of a diagram or set of diagrams that summarize their behavior. You’ll want to test and validate these with real users.
Step 7: Develop Metrics for Success
The final step is where you define the metrics for success and how they align with business strategy & corporate goals. For more insight, check out my post on defining feature-level user experience metrics.
Step 8: Putting It All Together
Congrats on getting this far! You should have all the critical elements of the UX Vision & Strategy completed, where the last step is combining all of the deliverables (see below) into a single document where you’ll present it to your stakeholders for feedback and approval.
- Experience Vision
- User Personas
- Design Principles
- UX Challenges
- Market Landscape
- Interaction Model
- UX Goals and KPI’s
This strategy lies at the intersection of UX design, business strategy, and innovation, where it serves as a strategic plan that aligns your business objectives with the user experience.
The purpose of a UX Vision & Strategy is also its primary benefit: a human-centered approach, or roadmap, to a product or service that an entire enterprise—including marketing, development, sales, and executives—can rally around and work to achieve. It ensures that all customer or user touchpoints positively reinforce the brand and the customer or user experience, resulting in a more cohesive and coherent product and customer relationship.
So be proactive in your design leadership by developing a UX Vision & Strategy, and I promise you’ll not only design extraordinary user experiences, but you’ll also have happier and more productive design teams.