Applied UX Strategy
Companies want to have a mature design practice, but many organizations are still far from it. My team at Mail.Ru Group started to change one of the biggest internet companies in Europe with ~150 mln monthly users many years ago, and we made a small revolution here. I made a series of articles for UXmatters that describe how we're making our company more UX mature. It can help other companies to solve organizational problems and create great products.
Hi! I'm Yury Vetrov from Moscow. I lead several design teams (25 products) at Mail.Ru, one of the largest internet companies in Europe with ~150 mln monthly users. I had a UX consultancy before (UI Modeling Company). I run a blog on UX Strategy in Russian at www.jvetrau.com, one of the most popular UX communities here, publish on Smashing Magazine and UXmatters, curate Future London Academy course in London, and run one of the biggest design conferences in Russia.
In a perfect world companies take a systematic approach to product design right from their first days. But in reality it happens in spot due to various reasons. Based on our experience at Mail.Ru Group and looking at other companies, plus learning about existing UX maturity models, I’be defined three levels of UX maturity — operational, tactical, and strategic.
Each level of UX maturity has its own challenges, goals, and limitations. These change as an organization matures. We need strong UX leaders with the clear vision and passion that are necessary to drive change and realize their goals, ensuring that their company’s design culture can grow rather than falling into decline because of real-world limitations. However, UX maturity is impossible without great product designers and a strong UX design team — a great leader alone is not enough.
Guidelines and pattern libraries are classic solutions for systematic product design. However, a guideline is yet another static artifact that designers should create and support. It adds one more step into the process, so we get a "guidelines → design mockup → front-end code → implementation" workflow and this workflow loses a lot of design details on every transaction and generates bug hordes along the way. Only if we move reference design from static documents onto implementation level, we can shorten the production cycle to "guidelines = design mockup = front-end code → implementation". A lot of troubles with the design implementation, enhancement and support will go away then.
For design to be an integral part of a dynamic production process, with fast updates and new product launches, and make a company successful in a highly competitive market, we have to focus on three things: teams, leaders, and culture. While design process is still important, it’s now more like a hygienic requirement. It’s necessary, but not sufficient to ensure a strong design team. We need an effective design process, but to achieve great experience outcomes, a team must have shared values.
Product designers fight for users every day, but they often use arguments that do not speak effectively to product managers, citing design best practices and guidelines, case studies from other companies, or even aesthetic principles. Most product managers are not capable of applying such knowledge to their products. Everybody would be happier if product designers could translate user painpoints into the language of business instead of arguing endlessly. Strategic designers influence the what and the why at their company.
The final part in this series covers overall UX strategy implementation plan. I’ve compiled a checklist of organizational enhancements, or design-management patterns, that I hope will help you begin making changes within your own company — or, if your journey is already underway, to accelerate those changes. As your organization adopts these patterns, you’ll achieve the UX maturity levels.