UX strategy represents a rapid growth area within the field of user experience, as customer data sources become both less expensive and more comprehensive, and UX finds it’s way into the C-suite in the form of program vision, marketplace direction, and long-term multichannel planning.
What are the tools and techniques that will help UX leaders and senior professionals prepare for this new stage they find themselves on? That’s what the UX STRAT 2013 conference is all about. It provides a forum for discussing frameworks and case studies that will help UX leaders improve their approaches for guiding user experience design and planning.
UX strategy offers a "North Star" for establishing a vision and direction for UX design efforts, giving long-term guidance to the day-to-day work that teams are involved in. This is not the type of content that can easily be covered at a more general UX conference, and some of the topics covered will include: how to prioritize feature sets and customer segments, how to align user experience with business strategy, how to communicate strategy to key partners in the business, how to measure progress, and how to design a successful customer experience across channels.
What is UX Strategy?
UX strategy is about building a rationale that guides user experience design efforts for the foreseeable future. UX strategy communicates a vision, priorities, design direction, and that “North Star” road map for all of the people who are planning and building digital products and programs. UX strategy is fundamentally based on data, but also encompasses the creative leap that allows teams to innovate and adapt to a rapidly evolving technology context.
People define UX strategy in different ways. Fundamentally, UX strategy is about aligning user experience design closely with business strategy, so user experience becomes a guiding force—not only for Web sites, applications, and mobile apps, but for formulating business and product development goals as well.
How UX STRAT 2013 Began
I've been an independent UX consultant since 2002. My practice has always involved the more strategic aspects of user experience, with a strong focus on user research and other types of user data collection. I've conducted many ethnographic studies in people's homes, in stores, and in other public places. In 2009 I worked on the first project with a formal title of UX Strategy. The objective was to use a very broad and deep base of customer and market data to create a UX strategy foundation for a top ten retailer.
This project required me to formulate a formal approach to UX strategy that could be communicated to a wide variety of stakeholders within the company. Over the next couple of years, I was fortunate to be able to work alongside a business strategist to align, in detail, the UX strategy and corporate business strategy. I was also able to conduct in depth ethnographic research in customer homes, and lead a customer video diary project that probed customers' changing shopping habits across devices. After this first extensive UX strategy project, I sought out new projects that would allow me to develop my approach to UX Strategy, while helping clients put a UX strategy foundation in place in their companies.
Because of the positive response of executives to the work my project sponsors and I were producing, I became convinced that UX strategy would be a significant growth area. In 2011, I started the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn—a group that has about 6,500 members today. A year later I formed a consulting group comprised of senior UX professionals with extensive experience in UX Strategy—including Mark Schraad, Shane McWhorter, Jenny Sun, and Andrew Schechterman—called the UX Strategy Group. I invited this group of consultants to help me organize the first UX Strategy Conference as part of the UX STRAT Advisory Board, joining Tim Loo, Ronnie Battista, Mona Patel, and Cory Lebson, all well known in UX circles.
The discussions in the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn assured me that UX strategy is growing in importance as a professional discipline within the broader field of UX. Our focus is very different from UX practitioners. We tend to focus a lot on data, but also on vision and road maps. We're trying to build a rationale for digital channel design, that we can communicate to many people within the company across a broad functional spectrum, from Marketing to IT to Merchandising to Business Strategy. For this reason, I felt like we needed our own conference, where we could discuss the challenges of guiding UX, rather than focusing on UX design practices.
The UXPA expressed strong support for UX STRAT from the beginning, and Amy Kidd, UXPA’s Director of Events, met with me on a regular basis to share expert advice on organizing the conference, with the full support of the UXPA board. Organizers of other UX-related events have also been very generous with their time and counsel as well, including Brad Smith of WebVisions, Dan Szuc of UX Hong Kong, Bruno Figueiredo of User Experience Lisbon, Simon Pulman-Jones of the EPIC Conference, Andrew Hinton and Kevin Hoffman of the IA Summit, and Suzanne El-Moursi of Interaction 13.
Why Should UX Leaders Attend?
UX STRAT is NOT about managing UX teams and budgets. It's about shaping and optimizing the design of digital products, projects, and programs to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. My intention is that UX STRAT 2013 will comprise a comprehensive foundation for the emerging practice of UX strategy globally. The program has been carefully curated to address topics of interest to UX leaders—people who have to make decisions about user experience direction, design priorities, competing customer needs, what data to collect and analyze, which devices and touchpoints to emphasize, what processes to follow, and what capabilities to include.
UX leaders should attend UX STRAT to:
- Learn about UX Strategy methodologies, tools, and deliverables
- Find out how other UX leaders are using data to formulate design strategies
- Network with experienced UX professionals who are focused on strategy
- Hear how companies are redesigning their cultures and products around their customers
- Find out how other companies organize their UX practice
- Discover new ways to communicate UX strategy to your organization
- Get an advance look into the future of UX strategy
How The Conference is Structured
We’re holding UX STRAT at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center, where presentations will take place in an amphitheater that provides an intimate setting. The conference format will be single-track plenary sessions. This will foster an attendee experience that is more like being in a thinktank than watching a series of passive lectures.
There will be ample time for discussion. UX STRAT will include workshops on the first day of the conference, followed by two days of presentations and discussions. The presentations are a combination of longer sessions of 30 minutes, shorter vignettes of 10 minutes, and panels—one of them hosted by Jonathan Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of UX Magazine.
Speakers represent a broad range of companies, including Microsoft, PayPal, Turner Broadcasting, eBay Europe, Intuit, Citrix, and many others. Keynote speakers will be Nathan Shedroff, who chairs the MBA and Design combined program at California College of the Arts, and Aarron Walter, who is the Director of User Experience at MailChimp. They will present case studies and frameworks that will enable attendees to implement changes in the programs and products for which they’re responsible, ensuring that they are guided by a solid, data-supported rationale rather than guesswork.
The conference has been purposefully capped at 250 attendees, to foster meaningful and lasting interactions among a highly experienced community of UX professionals. UX STRAT provides an intimate environment that allows UX thought leaders to meet one another in a relaxed, intellectually challenging setting. Many attendees will be accessible after the conference as well, since most are members of the UX Strategy and Planning group on LinkedIn.
Do We Really Need Another UX Conference?
Some people may question whether we need a specialized conference on UX Strategy, instead of incorporating this as a topic within a larger conference. I think both are appropriate. In fact, the UXPA and I are partnering on this combined approach. UXPA invited me to give a presentation and a workshop on UX Strategy at the annual conference this year in Washington DC. At the same time, UXPA has been mentoring me and helping me to put on a successful first UX STRAT conference. It's a win-win situation.
People looking for a more general UX experience, and some UX strategy as part of that, should head to UXPA. Those who want to dig deeper and learn more about UX Strategy, and hear presentations that center on more strategic advanced topics, can attend UX STRAT.