This article originally appeared in Jim's blog, Experiencing Information.

How do we consistently create UX strategy? Tough question.

Part of the problem is in the fuzziness of the term “strategy” itself. Many people blur it with detailed planning. Others consider strategy to be in-depth investigation, such as market research or competitor comparisons. Or, it gets conflated with vision or ambition.

None of this is strategy.

Strategy is about uncovering the key challenges in a situation and devising a way of coordinating effort to overcome them for a desired outcome. It’s an interlocking set of choices that aligns activity and shows causality: if we do this, then we expect to see that.

Analysis and planning, while necessary inputs and outputs in the strategy creation process, are not the core of strategy. You can’t analyze your way to strategy: the answers don’t magically emerge from data. And detailed roadmaps don’t provide the rationale for the activity they organize. Strategy does. It connects analysis and planning with an intentional logic that guides decision making.

The UX Strategy Blueprint is a simple tool to help you define a UX strategy. Try it out:

UX Strategy Blueprint

Keep in mind that strategy is hierarchical. It cascades from the top down. Effective UX strategy aligns upwards.

Regardless of level—corporate, product, team or personal strategy—the crux of strategy work relies on the same set of elements, outlined below. Using this schema allows you to not only articulate a UX strategy consistently, but also map it back to superordinate strategies.

Elements of UX Strategy

The elements in the UX Strategy Blueprint are based on existing research in the field of strategy. First, it borrows from Henry Mintzberg’s five Ps of strategy from his landmark book Strategy Safari. These are combined with Roger Martin and A.G. Lafley’s five questions of strategy in their recent book Playing To Win. (Both books are highly recommended).

The intersection of these two frameworks yields six common facets. Each is given a box in the Blueprint, formulated specifically for generating UX strategy. Below each of the six headers are guiding questions, as well as examples of the types of information required.

Here’s how to interpret each element in the UX Strategy Blueprint:

How to Use the UX Strategy Blueprint

Building UX strategy is a creative endeavor. Explore different options, asking “what if?” and “what would need to be true?” With the UX Strategy Blueprint, there is initially no risk in trying out alternatives: cross things off, move sticky notes around, rework ideas, crumple it up and start over again. Strategy is designed.

It’s best to start with the challenges and aspirations. After that, you may find yourself bouncing around between the boxes. That’s fine. The Blueprint exposes the dependencies in strategic choice letting you see all of the elements at once.

There are several situations in which you can use the UX Strategy Blueprint:

Once all of the elements have been agreed on, consolidate the strategy. A good, succinct strategy should only be about two pages long. Give it multiple forms to illustrate your intent to different audiences. Create a presentation, document and a graphic as needed.

Share the strategy as often as possible. It’s hard to over communicate. Print it out, hang it up, start every meeting with your strategy slide. Use it as dummy text in wireframes instead of lorum ipsum. Reiterate.

Developing strategy is a craft, one that involves exploration and choice but also systematic thinking. The UX Strategy Blueprint helps you see all the moving parts in a single overview. In doing so, it simplifies strategy, making an abstract concept more tangible for all involved.

Learn More with Jim Kalbach

If your strategy discussions feel more like political battles than progressive team-building, pay attention to Jim Kalbach. His virtual seminar on Thursday, August 28 is all about Defining a UX Design Strategy.

Jim KalbachAbout the Author

Jim’s one of those UX designers who’s an active practitioner and an exceptional instructor. He’s a principal UX designer at Citrix, and his background spans design roles at USEEDS in Berlin, LexisNexis, and Razorfish. He authored Designing Web Navigation. You can follow him on Twitter @JimKalbach.


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