Introduction to UX Maturity
Enterprise organizations are beginning to recognize the critical importance of User Experience Design (UX Design); however, there is often a misconception that UX skills, tools and processes are something they already have, or need to acquire. In reality, it isn’t as simple as having or not having UX Design capabilities.
Organizations fall on a broad spectrum in their ability to create and maintain high-quality, digital UX. These organizations range from developer-centric and traditionally risk-averse, to visionaries which have deeply embedded user-centred design philosophies that stem from the top down.
The term User Experience Maturity or “UX Maturity“, refers to an organization’s ability to improve business outcomes by integrating user-centric philosophies into their team culture, design process and digital product development.
As the previous decade saw the adoption of Agile in software development, this decade is witnessing the evolution of UX Design as a core pillar of enterprise DNA. As an organization evolves its UX capabilities, those accountable for change need to plan and execute a roadmap from their current state towards a measurable vision of success.
Why is UX Design so important?
The benefits of investing in User Experience Design include increased sales, improved customer satisfaction, increased brand perception, decreased development costs and improved employee retention. The higher the level of UX Maturity within an organization – the more significant the impacts of these benefits. Read more about The Value of User Experience Design.
“When we first started using UX design as a business practice, we grew revenues by 895% in the first three months. By making UX a focus in everything we do, we have fostered a highly-engaged user community and internal workforce.”Raffaela Rein, founder, The UX School
The Three Pillars of UX Maturity: Culture, Process and Product
Organizations can evaluate their level of UX Maturity across three key areas: culture, process, and product (or service).
An organization-wide, user-centric approach to strategy, innovation, problem-solving, service design, and product development.
Potential topics for evaluation:
- UX Design Team: Does the organization have dedicated UX Design resources and integrated UX Design roles (Strategists, Facilitators, Researchers and Designers) within project workstreams? Is there a refined UX Design process? Does the organization encourage ritualized sharing of UX-related information across teams and projects?
- UX Project Leadership: Are UX Design Leaders considered to be critical partners in all major work? Do UX Design Leaders have the opportunity to collaborate with other key partners throughout the entire project lifecycle (from project vision through to launch and post-launch measurement)?
- Executives Sponsorship, UX Champions & Employee Engagement: Is the executive team involved in promoting and supporting UX Design and user research initiatives across the organization? Are UX Design Champions embedded in project teams to drive excitement and share knowledge? Do employees across the organization feel passionate about understanding and improving the customer experience (and/or employee experience)?
UX Design tools and methodologies as a core component of vision, planning and project execution.
Potential topics for evaluation:
- User Research: Does the organization maintain the practice of organizing, performing and analyzing a variety of user research methods? Do user research activities include a variety of approaches (such as surveys, interviews, feedback sessions, observation, card sorting, and usability testing)? Are user research activities performed across all phases of the project lifecycle to understand behaviours, needs and challenges?
- Design Strategy: Does the organization have a refined process for translating research insights, analytics, and customer experience goals into design solutions? Do strategic design solutions and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) align with the overall company vision?
- Design Sprints, Workshops and Ongoing Experimentation: Do project teams utilize Design Sprints and Design Thinking methods as a formal process for the vision, exploration, validation and production of products and services (both internal and external)? Do key project leaders and project stakeholders participate, to any degree, in design and research activities?
- Design Operations: Does the organization maintain the concept of a “Centre of Excellence” that establishes and evolves a design practice charter, ensures an adequate number of design resources, performs strategic budgeting and facilitates project retrospectives?
Product (and Services)
A unified, consistent, and frictionless digital customer experience – supported by a unified, consistent, and frictionless digital employee experience.
Potential topics for evaluation:
- UI Design: Does project strategy support the evolution and continuous refinement of a consistent and unified digital aesthetic across phases and channels? Do project teams perform design research, ideation activities, information architecture workshops, clickable prototyping, visual design compositions, motion design exploration and structured design critiques?
- Design Systems – Have project teams implemented a dedicated process for creating, maintaining and promoting the organization’s style guide, and adhering to best practices for usage? Is there close collaboration between the UI Design and Development Team to ensure correct usage of UI components? Is there a documented standard for controlling the versioning and update of design assets across all products, services and channels?
Methods for Measuring UX Maturity
Seasoned UX Design practitioners have created a variety of models (tools) for consistently evaluating UX maturity. Most of these models are philosophically similar; however, they may have unique classifications and wording to describe various ideas.
All UX Maturity measurement models have a standard scale which starts at the bottom level of being oblivious to User Experience and ends at the high level of UX Design integration (full UX maturity). Between these two extremes are various stages of maturity that are often divided and labelled in different ways depending on the creator’s research, angle and target audience.
A UX Maturity Model can help to assess an organization’s current strengths, assist in the creation of a UX Strategy, and provide milestones to help measure success.
One of the newest and most comprehensive studies (2018) on the topic is “The New Design Frontier Report” (here) done by Leah Buley, at InVision’s DesignBetter team.
In the following diagram, you can see Leah Buley’s five levels of UX:
- Level 5: Visionaries -Design is a business strategy (5% of organizations)
- Level 4: Scientists – Design is a hypothesis and an experiment (12% of organizations)
- Level 3: Architects – Design is a standardized, scalable process (21% of organizations)
- Level 2: Connectors -Design is what happens in a workshop (21% of organizations)
- Level 1: Producers – Design is what happens on screens (41% of organizations)
How Are UX Maturity Models Used?
Leadership teams and project teams can use a UX Maturity Model as they implement (or consider) UX Design tools, process and culture across their organization. Hiring an external UX training and consultancy firm is often vital at this point. A third party will have the expertise to evaluate the organization with an unbiased and objective point of view.
Informing Executive Strategy
Once an organization’s UX Maturity is measured, the results can help inform an Executive UX Design Strategy by:
- Identifying where the organization stands on the UX Maturity spectrum/scale
- Recognizing the potential advantages and disadvantages associated with increasing their level of UX Maturity
- Providing clarity and guidance on required changes and enhancements to evolve towards the next level on the UX Maturity scale.
Enabling UX Consultants
A UX Maturity Evaluation enables a UX Consultancy to:
- Recommend a customized roadmap for building or growing UX Design competency as a competitive advantage
- Introduce short and long term UX Design training and facilitation solutions to increase internal skill-building and showcase immediate, tangible results
- Provide milestones to plan against and measure progress
Why Should Your Organization Care about UX Maturity?
In the recently published research result by InVision’s DesignBetter (here and also mentioned above), Leah Buley writes:
“InVision surveyed thousands of companies to explore the relationship between design practices and business performance. We found that those dominating their industries are the ones treating the screen like the most important place on Earth. In fact, companies with high design maturity see cost savings, revenue gains, and brand and market position improvements as a result of their design efforts.”
She shared that “companies [with a high level of maturity] put a lot of heat on industry incumbents, either by directly taking their market share or by gradually changing customer expectations.”
In his article “A 100-year view of user experience” (here), Jakob Nielsen writes, “The main value driver in the future economy will be user experience. Not only will UX be a key differentiator between premium-priced products and commodities, but it will also be the only way to overcome the productivity languor that’s currently plaguing advanced countries.” (NNgroup, 2017)
Building a Strategic Advantage
To create a strategic advantage and outpace competitors in our modern, digital world, organizations need to provide the best digital customer experience (UX) that is possible. All departments must work collaboratively to design and deliver an experience that delights the user and aligns with executive vision. To collaborate and deliver solutions quickly, these teams will need the best employee experience that is possible. The best employee experience is the result of a supportive internal culture, flexible project process and modern toolset. These elements work together to enable project success and service excellence.
In summary, to successfully evolve your organization’s UX Design capabilities you must understand your current starting point, determine precisely where you plan to arrive, and chart the path to take along the way. UX Maturity is the concept and method which will help provide clarity and track your progress on this journey.