UX can mean a lot of things and has many moving parts such as interaction design, visual design and user research. Two UX practitioners can be doing wildly different things even if they are working on the same project inside the same company. UX strategy is a term I came across a few years ago, but I had never taken the time to investigate. The book UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want written by Jaime Levy demystifies the strategy part of UX. Reading it gave me a lot of clarity.
UX Strategy Demystified
The first part of the book defines the concept of UX strategy. The UX strategy framework proposed by the author consists of business strategy, value innovation, validated user research and killer UX design.
UX strategy isn’t about production. It’s actually a game plan that should be created before any actual design work. It’s about understanding the business model, having a value proposition, making assumptions about the customers, validating those assumptions using small, structured experiments, changing courses along the way if needed, researching competitors, and identifying market opportunities to ensure that the digital product we create will be truly desired by the customers.
A value proposition is the value that a digital product promises to deliver to the users. A lot of products failed because their value propositions are not valid in the real world.
The book walks us through the process of coming up with a value proposition, creating a provisional persona based on our assumptions about the target customers, and then doing customer discovery — mainly interviews — to validate those assumptions and our value proposition.
If our value proposition is invalidated, then according to the book, we’ll need to either pivot to another customer segment or change our value proposition.
The traditional user-centered design process I learned in school emphasizes conducting ethnographic studies to gain insights into users’ pain points, behaviors, needs and goals. While this is definitely a valid approach, it requires a lot of resources. The process given by the book to assess a value proposition is more lean and nimble.
The hard part of doing customer discovery is finding the actual target users to interview. A good suggestion given by the book is to think about what activities those target users normally do and find them where they are doing those activities.
Competitor Research & Analysis
For me, this is biggest take-away from this book. It’s something I used to overlook, but it’s actually extremely useful in identifying market opportunities. Without researching competitors, we tend to live inside our own bubble and think that we’ve come up with a brilliant idea, only to realize later that there are already other players in the market offering similar or even much better products or services.
Through competitor analysis, we’ll be able to know whether the market we plan to enter is a “red ocean”, a “blue ocean” or somewhere in between. A “red ocean” means that there’s already fierce competition in the market. To win in such a market is not easy and probably will be “bloody”. A “blue ocean” means that we’ve identified a new opportunity. Our value proposition is novel enough to make competition irrelevant.
Entering a “blue ocean” is of course ideal but it doesn’t happen as often as we want it to. That’s why an analysis of competitors can help us see more clearly the landscape and inform our strategy to set ourselves apart through value innovation. The competitor matrix provided by the book is a useful tool to help us conduct this type of research.
Another thing I learned from this book which I’ve never learned in school is the funnel matrix. For anyone to use our product, he or she needs to go through what we call the conversion process, transitioning from a suspect to a customer or even a repeat user.
A funnel matrix describes this conversion process and breaks it down into several stages. We can incorporate analytics at each stage to gather quantitative data about the conversion rates, thereby identifying where the bottleneck or breakdown is. Then we can formulate tactics to address the problems accordingly.
To conclude, UX strategy is more of a mindset, a mindset of staying nimble and lean, making assumptions and running small experiments to validate those assumptions, and changing course when needed.
The book uses several real-world projects to anecdotally illustrate how to apply the UX strategy framework proposed by the author. Besides what’s mentioned above, the book also has chapters on value innovation, prototyping and doing guerrilla user research.
Recommendation: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
My Learnings from Other UX Books
- Learnings from Reading A Practical Guide to Information Architecture
- Learnings from Reading About Face