A UX strategy workshop
led by Jared Spool USA, Europe & Australia   ·   2020

UX Strategy is a Long Game, But Worth Every Moment

August 2, 2019

When I talk with UX design leaders about implementing UX strategies, the biggest surprise they have is how long it takes before they’ll see results. They’re shocked (and a little disappointed) when I tell them it’s likely they won’t see any real movement for months. It could even be years before they’re close to accomplishing their objectives.

In today’s world, we’re always trying to do things fast. The shift from waterfall to Agile pushed us to think in terms of sprints that only last a few weeks.

We used to take a year or more to ship a new release of a product. Now new releases go out quarterly, monthly, or even daily. (Some organizations release new features multiple times per day.) The notion that we’d take a year or more to implement a UX strategy can seem like forever against the backdrop of today’s fast-moving product and service delivery efforts.

Implementing a UX strategy takes time.

When we think about implementing a round of usability testing or producing wireframes for a design, we’re used to those activities taking a few weeks or maybe a month to do, if there’s a lot of work. Those are tactical UX activities. A project’s tactical UX activities are what we do to improve the design of a specific product or service.

UX strategy is different from UX tactics. UX strategy is how we improve the design of all the products and services. It’s about systemic change across the organization.

For example, if we’re introducing a strategy to drive more decisions from user research, we need to go beyond a single research study. Instead, we need to consider how continual research will influence every decision. Building a continual research capability is a big job.

UX strategy involves significant changes in our organization. Those changes will take time to come to fruition.

The importance of end goals, baselines, and champions

A good UX strategy has an end goal in mind. The end goal is how we’ll know when our strategy has been effective at making change in the organization. It answers the question, “If we do a good job of implementing this strategy, what good things will we see as a result?” This is the journey of our strategy.

Because implementing a UX strategy often involves changing an organization in subtle ways, it’s hard for design leaders to see the progress they have made.

Establishing a baseline of what the team or organization is doing today will give us perspective on the subtle changes that happen over time. We can stop at any point and ask the question, what are we doing now that we weren’t doing before we started our journey?

Along our journey, we’ll need support. That support can come from champions who will also benefit from the UX strategy. The best champions have different influence in the organization than us, giving us more ways to keep the organization on track as we implement the strategy.

It’s a game of patience and persistence.

It’s almost impossible to make big changes happen all at once. Instead, design leaders will need to break the efforts into baby steps.

For example, when a strategic goal is to get everyone to use research when making decisions for their product or service, we can start to meet that goal by providing one team with the research they need for an upcoming project. We then use that one team as a pilot to understand what future teams might need, allowing us to learn as we go about implementing our strategy.

It’s important to give ourselves the room to learn as we implement our strategic goals. Not every baby step will be successful. Sometimes we’ll face setbacks. Design leaders need the patience to deal with setbacks and they’ll need the persistence to learn from the failures and try again.

It’s a lot of work to implement a UX strategy. However, the benefits are clear when we do. Our organization is now ready to deliver better-designed products and services. That’s why we took on the challenge to implement one, to begin with.

UX Strategy with Jared Spool

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