All good projects start with a plan: for a house, it’s a blueprint; for a treasure hunt, it’s a map. A document, a piece of paper, or quite simply a list on a napkin that says what everyone’s going to do, when they’re going to do it, and why the plan is what it is.
Unfortunately, websites, apps, and other digital projects have developed so quickly that the strategy phase can often be left behind, and design and development forge ahead bravely into the unknown. Granted, this happy-go-lucky approach works – sometimes. You can get a great design and hire a superb developer to translate it into reality – sometimes. But companies are watching their bottom lines more closely now, especially in the digital world, and they want more than just “sometimes”.
Enter user experience (UX) strategy. That great, nebulous thing that everyone’s heard of but doesn’t talk about. So we thought we’d explain why UX strategy is worth a little more dough up front and how it saves money in the long run.
Poor internal communication. Digital designs, redesigns, and builds are large, complex projects, often with dozens of highly specialized roles all working together. It’s easy for people to be left out of the loop on a decision, in addition to which it quickly becomes impractical to have to consult 12 different people before moving forward with something. Deadlines become too packed, and the project quickly spirals off schedule and out of budget.
The UX strategy fix
: Early stakeholder consultations to get everyone on the same page at the start. By getting lots of stakeholder buy-in, everyone has their say in the design and development of a project. Plus, by everyone already has a shared vision of what the final product is going to be, decision-making is streamlined down the track, leading to projects finishing on time and budgets remaining intact.
Requirements and objectives of the project are not understood by everyone
. Sometimes, design teams and development teams can experience some friction. This is usually due to poor communication between teams, especially if there are multiple layers of design. It can lead to requirements being compromised by design, or designs not being followed through by development. The result is the same though: a sub-par project, that refuses to meet business objectives and results in another costly redesign shortly after the first metrics start rolling in.
The UX strategy fix
: Strategize and research business and user objectives. What is the goal of the website? What is the goal of the people using the website? Can both of these be achieved, what roadblocks might arise over time and how are we going to overcome them? These are some of the questions that are asked (and answered!) during the strategy phase. Techniques like interviews, user consultations, and business reviews can give a solid, researched base for informed design. By finding out where the sweet spot between business and user objectives is, the bottom line looks good and the user gets what they want.
Failure to avoid the mistakes of others
. It seems obvious, but peers and competitors have a wealth of experience to add to any project. But sadly, many begin building without taking the greater marketplace into context, and make the same mistakes that other people have already made.
The UX strategy fix
: Taking time to review competitors and peers. It uncovers things like industry-specific best practices, as well as gleans great inspiration for the project later on. A competitive review can also help by highlighting what is omitted. If all your competitors decided not to have a ‘sign up for daily deals!’ splash page it might be good to cull that idea from the pile. It really comes down to taking the time to learn from others before rushing in. By taking just that little extra time (and resources) to see what others do and don’t do, you can help give your users what they want straight away. And happy users are almost always generous ones.
The bottom line? User experience strategy makes projects happen on time and on budget, run smoothly, satisfy both user and business needs, and have more longevity, saving you a lot of pain in the long run.