Businesses don’t need a UX Strategy; Business Strategy needs UX

I tweeted this title a few days back. And now I feel compelled to elaborate on it after a few online and offline discussions about this statement.

The first piece of the problem is definition of “UX Strategy”. Many camps exist- some lie within the realm of user research, some around service design and yet others define it to be in the realm of leadership and culture of a design organization. Some like Jaime Levy, have taught a course on it, which I think is the closest that comes to a proper definition (yes, my camp).

None of these really, truly matter- because what is “strategy” after all? It’s a just a deeply informed, overall approach one takes to solve any problem.

So, my first proposal is to just get rid of the term “UX Strategy”. It adds more confusion, creates more camps and useless debates and is barely holistic in its nature.

The next piece of the problem is the nature of UX field itself- forever in transition and forever maturing. Why add another differentiating factor to an already poorly understood term? I’d argue that even today most leaders/decision makers don’t understand the value UX brings, feel like it is too time consuming to do and/or think of it as the very last step of building a product.

So, if the UX is community is going for a broader acceptance, it needs to stop finding areas of differentiation and start selling their ideas on areas of common understanding.

There’s that then- no additional terms and phrases and open ended words like “strategy” to add to people’s confusion. Explaining “UX” is enough. That completes the explanation for the first part of my statement- “Businesses don’t need a UX strategy”. They need UX.

And that brings me to the second part of the statement. Businesses need UX to help define their strategy, not just to execute it.

A “business” is something of perceived value being sold in exchange for money; that is something with paying users a.k.a customers. Crude definition, but that’s what it is.

Now, how does someone found this type of business with customers? Simple: they discover or invent value.

And what sort of activities do they have to do to discover or invent such value? Learning by doing. Some like to call it tinkering, some prototyping, some modelling and some research.

And sometimes things are expensive to tinker with and that’s where strategy comes in- competition is studied, historical performance is looked at, industry trends are evaluated, financial models with sensitivity analysis and scenarios are generated — all with the intent of making an informed bet on what to tinker with.

This is where UX comes in. Why not use some of our beloved lean UX techniques involving user research and prototyping to inform this business strategy? Ultimately, what better input than real customer feedback to determine which direction to go in?

No better signal of value than early customer feedback, which is what a well-trained UX designer can get. Add this input to your overall business strategy- and you might even be pleasantly surprised by simplicity of what your customers really want.

In the next part, I’ll discuss how I applied some of these thoughts into evaluating a conversational commerce business case.

ps: I’d love to put together a few real life cases studies of how UX can impact business strategy, so if you are looking to validate a business idea you have or get your business off the ground, convert more users, retain existing customers, acquire new ones, scale up adoption etc, drop me a line and we can chat!

Product and Design in San Francisco. Creator of design led feature film @fhtgmovie . Now streaming

Product and Design in San Francisco. Creator of design led feature film @fhtgmovie . Now streaming