Once relegated to the back burner, user experience is poised to become the key brand differentiator by 2020.
It’s already a major point of competition. The ratio of improvement to gains differs by industry: Forrester found that increasing customer experience by just 1% could earn credit card companies $5 million more in annual revenue.
The same gain would net an auto manufacturer nearly $900 million.
To earn those gains, though, companies need to hone their UX strategy.
What is a UX Strategy?
Before starting, it’s necessary to understand what UX strategy is and isn’t.
It is not an action plan or to-do list. Some companies overthink their strategy, creating rigid step-by-step instructions with no room for collaboration. That's a recipe for frustrated staff and lagging projects.
On the other hand, the strategy does need to provide enough structure for success. It isn't a vague philosophy created in the design phase by one senior executive.
That type of direction may as well be background noise. It’s ignored by the development team or even wildly misinterpreted.
Good UX strategy starts before a project even reaches the design phase. Instead of a detailed checklist, the strategy provides guidance for the overall order of development.
It outlines the “Big Picture” context of the project as it relates to improving user experience. UX strategy should be created with input from all stakeholders. Only when everyone is engaged and on the same page will the strategy be something usable at all levels.
What does an effective UX strategy look like?
1. Outline Goals
Make sure the idea is fleshed out enough to research. Know what problem the software is intended to solve and what the company hopes to gain from the project, then outline parameters for success.
This is where some go overboard, so keep it general. For example:
The app will provide a way for agents to complete contracts in the field without needing to come to the office. It will eliminate resources wasted in travelling across town several times a day as well as increasing the accuracy and consistency of records.
Don’t forget to assign a priority to the project. If another software need arises, will this project be put on hold or does it take precedence? What kind of resources will be devoted to it?
The more information available about the market and potential users, the better decisions designers can make about features and layouts. Gather as much input as possible, focusing on:
- Who are the stakeholders? Include company leaders, investors, and engineers. Find out what problems they have with the current system and what they think would add value.
- Who what do users want? This is a good time for focus groups, surveys, or examining existing feedback to find out what users want from the software.
- Where does the software fit in the market? Identify what differentiates the product from similar products. Will it be more economical, have expanded features, or offer increased security?
The design phase takes data collected during the first stages and translates it into an actual product. First, create the initial wireframes and prototypes. Map what the customer’s journey is expected to be, generating process diagrams to make it easy to understand at a glance.
After the stakeholders have signed off on the wireframes, build a workable version of the software.
This is an iterative process that’s closely entwined with the testing phase. As long as the overall goals are still being met, it’s okay to change features or adjust the process diagram in response to feedback during Alpha and Beta testing.
One caution: it’s become common for Beta versions of software to stay in use for extended periods of time. The theory is that it allows more user input to affect the final product, but it can backfire if the Beta version is heavily flawed or if it lingers so long that users lose interest.
Before moving forward, identify metrics for evaluating success. Usability metrics can include downloads, retention, task completion, or any other data that suggests how funcional users find the product.
Release the software, either to a test group or to all target users depending on where it is in the design/test cycle. Track how well the software is performing with the usability metrics identified during the design phase.
Highlight issues and rank them by priority for future patches.
Have a specific timeline in mine for each phase of testing. Though it’s wise to leave some room for flexibility, a timeline removes the temptation to hold onto software until it’s “perfect”.
There will always be something else the software can do, but new features can be added in later updates. Don’t leave a product in beta forever.
No product is perfect on first release, so plan for updates. Be flexible and open to change in response to user feedback. Collect all feedback (feature requests, activity logs, A/B testing data, support reports, etc.) and push it forward to use during adjustments.
Most importantly, don’t take feedback personally. It means the user is interested enough in the future of the product to want it to be better, and that’s a good sign.
The Ultimate UX Strategy
A grounded, responsive strategy gives software the best chance of scoring high on user experience. It can be applied to any project yet is clear enough to provide solid direction to the development team. Adopting a strategy like this will help every project reach its maximum UX potential.
User experience should be considered at every stage of development. Contact Concepta for a free assessment of how to maximize UX in your next software project by building for quality and performance.