Understanding UX Strategy And How It Merges With Interface Design

There’s a bit of murkiness surrounding the concept of “user experience”. In one way it relates to digital interface design. But in another way it relates to the somewhat intangible behavior & experience that a user gets while interacting with the screen.

All of this comes together in something called a UX strategy where the business objectives meet the interface to target very specific goals.

In this post I’d like to cover the basics of UX strategy and how it applies to UI/UX design work. These tips can apply to mobile or web interfaces, and they can be extrapolated to pretty much any project or company that has very specific goals for the end user whether commercial or otherwise.

What Is UX Strategy?

Some people don’t notice the difference between a UX designer and a UX strategist(or UX architect). These terms are often used interchangeably but they are not the same thing. UX strategy is a higher-level concept that looks to the “how to” side of things before anything is designed.

UX strategy comes from a business perspective where the goal is to create an experience that achieves certain business goals. Whether these goals are to increase sales, increase email signups, or maintain growth in active app users, the strategies must be planned by analysis and user research.

This can delve a bit into usability testing but it’s more about the application of that knowledge and how it works into the design phase.

Not all UX strategists even know how to use Photoshop or InVision for wireframing/designing. Most UX strategists consider objectives from the business side, then work into the UX side to find a solution.

So a UX strategist gathers research data and studies the results to come up with a user experience strategy that should convert well. This post explains it a bit more by considering the information architecture of a design along with the user experience.

Designing For A Purpose

Every interface should be created with a purpose. This purpose may not always align 100% with the business goals, but it should always align with the intention of the consumer & end user.

Commercial intent should be the purpose of every company and the success of this intent can be measured by KPIs(or Key Performance Indicators).

wireframing assembly digital flows

If the goal is to increase app downloads and user engagement then a couple KPIs to track would be total number of downloads and total active users.

These stats can be tracked month-over-month to see if the strategy is working.

It’s hard to plan out a strategy that will encourage users to download an app. Making it free is a good first step, but it also needs attention and value.

But keeping people engaged can be planned with user testing and case studies. A UX strategist might take the app prototype and test it on a handful of users to see how long they fully engage with the interface.

By studying where people drop off, and more importantly why they drop off, it’ll be easier to see which areas need improvement.

Are people getting bored or lost? Are they playing a game that’s just too confusing? Or is there no clear objective after the onboarding process?

A UX strategy considers all of these questions and the solutions mostly come from UX designers. This merges user experience and business objectives into one unified field.

Reverse Engineering Goals

Any UX designer has the capacity to consider UX strategy and make themselves much more lucrative in the marketplace. The difficulty is that few designers even know this role exists, much less how to go about doing it.

The key is to start with objectives. What should this interface accomplish? If we take a site like Amazon then one goal is to help people browse and find related items as they shop.

Part of this has to do with an algorithm for picking related items based on previous searches and items purchased in the user’s history. But it also has to do with how the items appear on the page. A UX strategist might study user behavior on the current Amazon product page to see how they shop around. Where could related products be placed?

amazon related products

One common feature is the “frequently bought together” section located right underneath the product details.

This showcases 1 or 2 other products that often get purchased with the current product. This may encourage shoppers to add more items into their order which is a good thing for Amazon.

Understand that a UX strategist and UX designer can be one in the same. Most of these people fall into senior roles working at the head of the UX department for larger corporations.

The UX design concepts focus on implementation and details like UI animations. The UX strategy concepts focus on why you’re doing something and what the intended outcome is.

By focusing on a specific problem first you’ll have an easier time reverse-engineering a solution. Are you trying to show people more items while they shop on Amazon? Do so in a way that actually relates items to the current product in a meaningful way.

Everything Comes From The User

You might start your strategy by organizing business KPIs and objectives. But the solutions always come from the users.

We’re just people designing interfaces for other people to use. And while people can behave strangely, there are trends to be seen in rounds of testing that point to obvious solutions/problems in an interface.

Sometimes the answer can be as simple as making the design prettier and more pleasing. Other times it can be poor contrast and poor legibility in text. And the worst cases come from user behaviors that don’t get completed because of poor design work.

If a user can’t find the signup button for your social networking website, that’s a huge problem.

By thinking about what a user wants you’ll have an easier time planning your strategy. Sometimes this involves educating the user before asking them to perform an action.

For example, if a visitor doesn’t even know what your social network does then they have no reason to sign up. Well-written copy and maybe some featured illustrations would help explain the site more clearly, and then ideally drive higher signup rates.

Look for problems from a user’s perspective because behaviors never lie.

mobile shopping ux wireflow

The more you learn to look at problems from the user’s perspective the easier it’ll be to solve them. But users don’t always know the solution, so it’s really the job of the UX strategist/designer to fully understand the problem before proposing a solution.

Moving Forward

Don’t let the various terms and titles confuse you. The job of a UX’er is to craft a user experience that pleases the user and that fulfills business objectives. A great UX designer should be able to do both, but the UX strategy should always come first.

With a better understanding of UX strategy you should have no problem getting started with user testing and planning exactly what you want to do on each project.

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