6 Indicators of an Organizations User Experience Maturity Level

“I think in order to design great products, you need to have the culture in place.” — Cordell-Ratzlaff, 2010

Organizations are seeing the value of hiring user experience (UX) professionals and incorporating user-centered design. Big name companies such as Google and Apple have incorporated UX design as a centerpiece of their successes. The overall “maturity” of UX design in creating software and technology has made huge leaps over the past few decades. However, like any function or practice, not all organizations have adopted or embraced UX design to the same degree or at comparable levels of maturity.

While there are five levels of UX maturity that we outline in our whitepaper, Introducing UX into the Corporate Culture: A UX Maturity Model, here are the six key indicators that influence an organization’s level of maturity:

  1. The timing of UX involvement in the design and development process. The earlier UX is involved, the more mature the company.
  2. The UX expertise and resources in-house and/or ability to bring in UX expertise quickly as needed.
  3. The use of appropriate techniques and deliverables to obtain and understand user input and capture UX design.
  4. The leadership and culture in the company. How well do the leaders and company as a whole appreciate the value and necessity of UX design from a business perspective?
  5. The degree to which UX processes are connected and integrated with other corporate processes that enable individuals to work together to create the user experience of the product(s).
  6. Design thinking is applied in the broadest perspective possible to drive consistent customer experience.
3 of the 6 indicators at each stage of UX maturity

UX Maturity and Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is widely known as a prolific inventor with 1,093 US patents to his name. While people generally associate his name with inventions such as the phonograph and the light bulb, Edison is also attributed to be the first inventor to apply mass production and cross-functional teamwork to the process of invention. Therefore, he has been credited as the inventor of the first industrial research and design facility.

Edison brought together cross-functional teams of people: scientists, craftspeople, machinists, mathematicians, and engineers, and put them together in an environment filled with an amazing assortment of materials and tools and created what he referred to as his “invention factory.” In a Harvard Business Review article on, “Design Thinking,” Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO, states that, “… Edison made it [innovation] a profession that blended art, craft, science, business savvy, and an astute understanding of customers and markets.” When Edison invented the light bulb, he didn’t just create the light bulb. He created the bulb, the power distribution system to get the power to the bulb, and the power metering system to measure how much electricity was being used so he could charge for it.

Design thinking, and by extension, the UX Maturity of an organization, can be seen as a descendant of that tradition. But, for various reasons, we lost sight of that tradition and design came to be treated as a downstream step in the development process (similar to the UX Maturity seen in Stage 2: Awareness). Eventually, during the late half of the 20th century, design started to become valued as a competitive asset in automotive and consumer goods. This began to push design further upstream in the development process. Now, with the popularization of concepts such as “Design Thinking,” instead of asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, designers are being asked to create ideas that better meet consumers’ needs and desires. This request no longer applies solely to products. It also applies to processes, services, and interactions.

In parts 2 through 4 in this series, we will examine case studies for organizations in the adopting stage and look at interactions between the various indicators and their impact on the relative success of the product design and development.

Part 2: Consequences of an Underutilized UX Team
Part 3: Bringing UX to a Legacy Product Revitalization
Part 4: Considering UX in the Whole Ecosystem

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Originally published at www.macadamian.com on August 20, 2015.