Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Make Effective Transition from UX Strategy to UX Design

UX strategy and design are dynamic continuum.

UX strategy has become an integral component of digital strategy with customers centricity as digital theme. However, what are all the ways and means you use to bridge UX Strategy to UX Design. How do you transition into design mode? How do you kick start the design process? Which role does your strategy play as you make progress through design and implementation? How do you use your strategy deliverable during design? Which role do your UX Strategists play in UX Design? How do you take strategy into agile teams?

UX strategy and design are dynamic continuum: Either an individual designer or team needs to work on both simultaneously. That is, one needs to give time to both (switching between both seamlessly). Without strategy, a designer can start to lose the bigger picture. Without design, the grand plan never gets implemented or is done. So by definition, you're really never out of UI Strategy mode. Strategies and tactics run at different levels in your process with strategies running at a higher level of abstraction than tactics. Even if a UX team is split between those who focus more on product strategy and those who focus more closely on design elements, both must be responsible for each. Hence, it’s really necessary to bring a design strategy for any given project to life through storyboards, prototypes and stories of some sort; and this is where UX design plays in. Kick-starting the design process from design strategy, getting a team to look at the principles in the strategy and flip each principle into a question: "How might we ensure there's content which is relevant to each new person, so that they'll join?" Agile teams will understand design, but often have trouble understanding the need or role of UX Strategy. Ideally anyone in UX needs to be an advocate for making strategy a part of the design process and may need to fight for that role. The positive side is given the adaptive nature of agile teams once an argument can be made for its inclusion, teams can incorporate UX Strategy into the process pretty effectively.

Where designers and strategists often intersect will be in design standards, design evolutionary paths: Its often related to expected availability of capabilities, managing risks and the means to reduce use errors. So a UI strategist should be taking a long and informed view of what UI policies best serve or will best serve in the future needs of the business or organization. The UI designers should be fully aware of those policies when initiating a design. A designer should be able to justify a design on the basis that the design furthers the policies as defined by the UI strategists. Designers or design strategists should participate in the strategy work, and of course vice versa, that the lead strategist is available to the design team during design work. On the strategical level, look at the overall business/operations, trying to understand culture, business, and both business and user needs and expectations. Business goals, visions and missions, features heavily in this; look at where they are today and where they need or want to be, looking at the gap. The strategy, then, describes this gap and the journey needed to get there. Defining goals and KPIs is a vital part of this. The tactical level, then, describes the solution that will help meet the vision, reach the goals. It may consist of many different parts, over different channels - some may be organizational changes; on the operational level, then, the different parts of the concept will take the form of projects, to implement the changes, and do governance and maintenance.

Bring strategy alive and allow it to be communicated effectively are an essential part of the UX designer skill-set. Knowledge and understanding of the operational aspects is extremely important - you need actual experience of the ground conditions, or both strategy and tactics will be all fiction (or worse still - some kind of epic fantasy). Especially when you do strategy in a corporate business environment. Pure strategy deliverable don’t often convey the potential reality. Sometimes the nature of final strategy deliverable differ depending on whether the work is pure strategy (which will be deliberated on before a decision to design and build is made), or instead strategy for design, which can go deeper into the conceptualization. The assets of Design Strategy - experience flow diagrams, conceptual models and so on, are never enough for stakeholders to get a proper feeling for the vision being set up.

The challenge, not counting the political game of chess, is to bridge strategy with concept or tactics, and the operational challenges of designing, building and maintaining. One of the most pressing issues, is that the strategy often gets questioned by tactics and operations,  and one key to avoid this is clear communications with clear artifacts and an ongoing discussion about what other roles and competences need from other people on the team to be able to deliver is important. In a balanced open-minded digital world, let’s be agile in strategy, design, and development, not resting on any laurels!


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