UX Strategy Blueprint

Strategy is about uncovering the key challenges in a situation and devising a way of coordinating efforts 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 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. Challenges, aspirations, focus areas, guiding principles, activities, and measurements are the six elements of the Blueprint, formulated specifically for generating UX strategy.

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.

adapted from “UX Strategy Blueprint” by Jim Kalbach

Learn more from 14 inspirational pioneers who are delivering user experience as a competitive advantage to their organization. In live, on-stage interviews, Jared Spool and Karen McGrane interview the design leaders who are at the forefront of redefining their industries. Be part of the conversation as we explore the UX Advantage.

How Did Intuit Become a Design-Driven Company?

In 2008, Intuit founder and CEO Scott Cook recognized that they had strayed from a focus on great design and instead had begun to focus too much on adding incremental features to their products. Their research found that adding incremental features and functionality delivered ease but not necessarily delight.

Cook recognized that they needed to “think about emotions—how customers felt about our products and whether they took pleasure in using them.” He set a long-term goal where awesome design would play a major role in getting Intuit to be considered one of the most design-driven companies in the world.

What kind of progress have they made? The number of designers at Intuit has increased by nearly 600%. They hold quarterly design conferences. They bring in people making beautifully designed products to share insights with their employees. They have challenged everyone who works for them, including lawyers and accountants, to think critically about how design should be part of their jobs.

This helps Intuit use design as a competitive advantage resulting in customers forging a more emotional connection with the company as well as increasing their market share.

adapted from “Intuit’s CEO on Building a Design-Driven Company” by Brad Smith

Designing for the Invisible Experience

When we’re doing our job well, users don’t see our designs. Our users don’t understand how much time we put into our taxonomies or information architecture. It’s invisible to them.

Instead, customers focus on their experience. What they care about is their experience while using our products and applications. But as soon as they become frustrated, our designs become visible.

In an interview with Netflix customers, happy customers didn’t talk about the design. Instead, they focused on their experience and how it made them feel. As soon as they experienced a negative emotion—like frustration—customers saw the designs and even asked questions like “why did they design it this way?”

We want our customers to experience our designs, not see them. We can do this by eliminating all negative emotions. Usability testing and field studies are a great way to to see through our users’ eyes and solve for these problems. And when we spend more time observing our users, we can create designs that our users don’t see, but rather experience.

adapted from “Great Designs Should Be Experienced and Not Seen” by Jared M. Spool

Come to the UX Advantage Conference and hear interviews with design leaders from PayPal, MasterCard, and GE on how they are shifting to designing for the invisible experience and the changes needed in the work process and design cycle to make this happen.

A UXA Podcast with Jared Spool: Reinventing Corporate Structures

Traditional organizational silos are the nemesis of delivering great experiences. How do you scale multidisciplinary teams to enterprise size? Does a culture of design require a fundamental structural shift in how the organization operates?

In this podcast, Jared tackles the UX Advantage topic, Reinventing Corporate Structures.

Full Transcript.


Sean Quinn: Hello, everyone. I’m Sean Quinn. Today, I’m really lucky to be joined once again by the co-executive producer of the UX Advantage Conference Jared Spool who along with Karen McGrane, has been working really hard on putting together this incredible conference that focuses on UX Strategy issues no one else is talking about.

In this podcast, we’re going to be exploring the exceptionally interesting UX Advantage topic of reinventing corporate structures. First, I want to say, hi, Jared.

Jared Spool: Hey there.

Sean: I’m really excited to discuss this topic with you. It’s actually the one that I find most intriguing of all of the ones that will be covered at the UX Advantage Conference. Let’s get started with reinventing corporate structures.

Traditional organizational silos are the nemesis of delivering great experiences. How do you scale multidisciplinary teams to enterprise size within the current corporate structures?

Jared: This is the key thing. This is re-shifting the way things work inside large organizations. One of the things that’s interesting is, we’ve always had this idea that in the industrial age, there’s a group of people who make the product. There’s a group of people who sell the product. There’s a group of people who bring awareness that the product exists, so that the people who sell it can sell the product that was made. Then there’s another group of people who support the product and maintain it.

You think of a car company. You’ve got the folks who buy the Super Bowl ads, or separate from the folks who train the salespeople to sell this thing. Then the people who actually sell it not only are separate but they don’t even work for the same company. They work for little organizations.

You’ve got the people who engineer and design the car. You got a different group of people who build the car. You’ve got another group of people who service the cars.

They’re all separate groups. They hardly ever meet. They probably don’t know people in the other groups. There’s probably some product manager type who traditionally has needled the groups together in this very loose network, and been the one who is responsible for communicating, but other than that there’s really no connection between these groups.

That doesn’t work anymore, because if we’re building great experiences, suddenly, every one of those things is a design problem. If the product’s fantastic, but it’s really difficult to buy. Or if the salesmen are really slick, but what they’re selling isn’t the actual product—you’ve got these problems.

If the product is great but the service sucks, if the marketing doesn’t really talk about what the product’s about, or it pitches something different, or it’s not coordinated with the changes in the product—you’ve got all these issues.

Organizations are realizing that they have to rethink the silos. They have to rethink these different issues. This has come about. We’ve seen this poke its head up in interesting ways, because the marketing people created this thing called customer experience, which is basically taking satisfaction metrics and other feedback and saying, “What is the net promoter? Is it a common thing? What is the satisfaction that people have? Would they recommend this product to someone else?”

That information doesn’t help you build a better product. You can’t tell from a net promoter’s score dropping from a 7.4 to a 6.8 what to do differently in the product. You don’t know. The product people have their own research, their own efforts to understand how to make the product better.

Then there’s this whole idea of service design where all the touch points are dealt with. We’ve got this customer experience, user experience, service design all basically promising the same thing but they were invented by different groups and assets. They were brought into the organization by different groups because the silos needed their own solution for those things.

What we’re seeing now is that in the organizations that are really pulling this off, they’re breaking those silos down. Service design, and customer experience, and user experience are starting to blend. Designers and marketers, and legal people, and everybody is working together to produce the product.

Suddenly you have a different type of group—multidisciplinary group—that goes across functional boundaries that is no longer thinking in terms of “I work for the marketing department,” or “I work for product,” or “I work in service.” In fact, they’re just about creating a great experience no matter where they are.

That shift is a big shift for a lot of organizations.

Sean: It sounds like what you’re saying is that it’s actually a fundamental shift.

Jared: Absolutely.

Sean: One of the most difficult to make of any shifts.

Jared: Imagine being a bank. One of the greatest examples of this is that for some reason, back in the ’70s and ’80s, banking got into this group-think exercise, where the entire industry decided that they were no longer service, but were now making products. A mortgage is a product. A savings account is a product. A checking account is a product. A credit card is a product.

Everybody in the industry thinks this, everybody except for their customers. Their customers still think they’re getting a service. The industry keeps fighting that idea. Part of this came from the ability to sell things. I could sell you the mortgage, but then I can sell your mortgage to another service organization and they’ll service the mortgage. It’ll still have my name on the top of the stationery, but I actually don’t know what’s going on with your mortgage anymore.

This third-party company that bought the mortgage from you is now collecting the interest off the mortgage as part of the deal. They provide customer service to you. In fact, they may decide that they don’t want to provide customer service to you, so they’ve hired a company that will actually do the customer service while they collect the interest off the mortgage with my logo on the top of the page.

I actually have no idea what’s going on with the mortgage I sold you because I got other business. That was what the product thinking got us. From the customer’s experience, this was miserable.

I was in the process of refinancing, and a bank had come to me with a great deal. My mortgage wasn’t with that bank. I decided to go with the bank that the mortgage was with, and actually asked them what would it take for them to refinance it, figuring since they already have the mortgage, they’d be happy to refinance.

The hoops I had to go through, which included in the same phone call, telling a machine and two different people my account number, my outstanding balance, which they should have had, both of those things in front of them, and my address and my other details.

It was just incredible how many times I had to repeat information, because I kept getting transferred from one person to the next because I was trying to figure out if they would give me a good rate on re-financing.

It was just this siloed organization. For me as a customer, it was a horrible experience. I don’t care whether they gave me a good rate. Just because of how much hassle it was to talk to a computer, and two separate people who were looking at the computer, but not getting information from each other. I had to keep repeating things. This is not a company I wanted to do business with.

Sean: I think another great example, if you’re willing to speak to it, is the experience you recently had trying to get a receipt from an airline you did business with, if you wouldn’t mind speaking to that as an example of this siloing.

Jared: I was trying to get a receipt out of American Airlines, and went to the website to just look up my past trips. Past trips are not on the website. You can go to the loyalty program. You can see how many points you got from them, but you can’t see any details of the past trip.

Where are my past trips? I call the reservation person. First, I don’t get through to the reservation people. They tell me it’s going to be a 20-minute wait, but I can be called back. I leave my phone number, and they call me back. I was OK. I’d rather not be on hold, listening to bad airline hold music, so that was OK.

Then I got this call back from this woman who is completely unprepared to help me, because she knew nothing about my past trips. I gave her the six-letter code off my ticket, she couldn’t see the past trips in her history either—even though I’m a loyal person. I got points from them, the points are there, but no, she couldn’t see those, I have to give her the six-letter code, which I happen to have, that goes with it.

Then she said to me, she said outright, “I actually can’t get you this. You have to do it yourself.” It was completely bizarre. She’s like, “I’m going to walk you through how to do it on the website.” Then she proceeded to tell me things on the website that didn’t actually exist.

Finally, she had to bring up the website not on her system, because she can’t bring up the website on her system, she said to me, she says, “I have to boot this up on my personal computer, and bring up the website so I can see it.” She’s like, “Oh, you’re right. There is no receipt function. I have to call my help desk.”

Then she puts me on hold. Now I get to listen to the bad hold music. She puts me on hold for about five minutes while she talks to them, and turns out to get a receipt, you have to go to a website that’s not the airline website, but in fact a special URL that’s for refunds for the airline, Refundamericanairlines.com or something like that.

You’re now at the refund. It turns out there’s a little tab that says, “Print the receipt,” on the refund site, not on the main site. Then it wants a 16-digit ticket number. I didn’t have a 16-digit ticket number. All I had was the six-letter code. She’s like, “You need the 16-digit ticket number. You can’t get a receipt.” This is crazy. She said, “Go to your credit card bill and get the 16-digit ticket number.” What?

It was just nutty. This is what happens when you have silos in the organization, and people aren’t thinking about the customer journey. They’re not thinking about the total experience. They’re not thinking about what that’s really about. That’s what creates these issues.

If you’re really going to have a large organization with a great user experience that’s infused throughout, the silos have to be busted, because customers should not see what Tamara Adlin refers to as your corporate underpants, where ticket receipts are somehow part of refunds. That doesn’t make any sense, whatsoever. I didn’t ask for a refund, I just want a receipt so I can get reimbursed.

Sean: In your estimation, who are the folks who are successfully navigating this fundamental shift at this point?

Jared: I think that this is something that Fidelity is making huge weaves and bounds with. I think that we’re seeing great results out of PayPal. Though Scott will talk about this at the conference. Steve Turbek from Fidelity will talk about it. I think this is exactly what Capital One is working on. Scott Seymour from Capital One will talk to this.

I think this is a big deal and organizations are dealing with this. There’s a lot of legacy heritage that has to be dealt with when you start to break down these boundaries, and people start having to work together, and understand everybody else’s work schedule, and the milestones they have to have and all those things.

Sean: I’ve had the unique privilege and pleasure of being able to speak with you in all of these podcasts. I suggest anyone who is only listening to this one to go back and listen to the others, because it seems like all of these topics for the UX Advantage Conference are not standalone issues that you’re going to need to deal with many—if not all of these—in concert. Is that a fair estimation?

Jared: Oh, yeah. It is definitely the case that these things are all interrelated. You can’t think about restructuring the silos without executive support. The rewards and incentives that are put through the organization have to be in alignment, because if one group of people of marketing is rewarded for the promotion for getting something shipped by a certain date.

The design isn’t ready or the work that needs to be done, they’re going to push to generate a result for the reward system that’s going to not be optimal for the outcome of the design.

There’s all sorts of interrelationships that these topics have. Karen and I didn’t pick them by accident. These were all things that we realized we need to dive in and talk about both independently and together. What’s going to be cool about the conference is, we’re doing these interviews. We get to have these conversations about what each of these folks are doing.

As they’re putting these great organizations on the road to better competitive UX, we get to have these conversations about what have you done, and what are the challenges, and what are the elements? Because we’re doing it as interview format, we can refer to what other people are doing. We don’t have to rely on the fact that they pre-prepared a deck to make this work.

It’s going to be a lot of fun for us to have these conversations. It’s like having the panel of our dream that goes on for a day and a half. We’re really going to get in deep into these topics.

Sean: It’s going to be amazing, I know. I can’t wait to hear about these things. They’re interesting, they’re intriguing. The way you guys present this, it’s exciting. Once again, thank you for your time, Jared.

Jared: Thank you.

Sean: To all of you out there listening, I couldn’t recommend more going to uxadvantage.com to see all the topics, all of the speakers, the location, the venue, it’s going to be great. That’s in Baltimore on August 18th and 19th. I’m going to be there and I think you should be as well. Thank you. Bye for now.

Is There Any Meat on This Lean UX Thing?

The beauty is there’s nothing new here.

What makes Lean UX most interesting is that it’s built from well-understood UX practices. Nothing in what I’ve seen about Lean UX is new.

In fact, it’s very reminiscent of what we were doing in the 1990s. We made a lot of headway teaching techniques like discount usability testing and paper prototyping back then, but then the results were always packaged up for the end-of-phase contracts that waterfall demanded. Those same techniques now have a comfortable home in Lean UX and dovetail nicely with the Lean UX practice.

You can think of it another way: Lean UX is just UX. But UX isn’t always Lean UX.

There’s definitely meat in the Lean UX world. If you’re not paying attention, you should be.

Learn from 14 inspirational pioneers who are delivering user experience as a competitive advantage to their organization. In live, on-stage interviews, Jared Spool and Karen McGrane interview the design leaders who are at the forefront of redefining their industries. Be part of the conversation as we explore the UX Advantage.

adapted from “Is There Any Meat on This Lean UX Thing?” by Jared M. Spool

A UXA Podcast with Jared Spool: Gaining Executive Support

In order to gain executive support for UX as a core tenet of the business, you’ve got to rethink the whole business. Every touch-point, every internal system, everything has to be re-thought. That shift is as simple as turning a cruise ship.

What does it take to make that shift? How does putting user experience first change the way organizations work?

In this podcast, Jared tackles the UX Advantage topic, Gaining Executive Support.

Full Transcript.


Sean Quinn: Hey now. I’m Sean Quinn, and today I’m fortunate to have even more time with the co-executive producer of the UX Advantage Conference, Jared Spool, who along with Karen McGrane has been working super hard on putting together a conference focusing on UX strategy issues no one else is talking about. In this podcast, we’re going to take a really close look at one of the UX Advantage topics. That’s the topic of gaining executive support.

Organizational change must be top down and bottom up. A question arises, “How do UX and design leaders influence the way executives make product and technology decisions?” That’s the first question that we’ve got for Jared.

Jared Spool: Let’s start with a little history. A lot of user experience stuff that’s come into organizations has always been grassroots. It’s always been a bunch of folks who were down at the bottom of the food chain saying, “You know, we could make this better. We could make this operation more efficient, we could make customers more satisfied, we could grow this.”

Occasionally organizations say, “We want to have great design.” There are these natural tensions in organizations. Design and user experience, particularly when you’re doing it for the very first time, is not cheap and it’s not fast.

It’s an investment. You have to get people who know how to do this work, you have to slow down the work in order to make sure you’re doing the right thing. You have to change your processes, which over time have evolved to produce faster and faster, but with no real notion of a great experience behind them, so they’ve been ignoring that.

You may have created a lot of what would be known in the trade as legacy debt. You have these systems that don’t make it easy to do things. If you were a large travel agency, someone in the travel business, you’d probably have this massive reservation system that was built in the ’70s or the ’80s that was always intended to be used by employees.

Never was it conceived that you would actually let consumers do things with travelers—passengers book their own travel. Now, you have to do that and you’ve got these problems like the descriptions for the hotel rooms are in this internal jargon that makes perfect sense to a travel agent, to someone on the customer support line, but when you show that jargon to the customer, they don’t know what that means.

Now, you have to translate all that content into something that is not just a description of the hotel room, but actually sells the hotel room. You’ve got all of this investment that you have to make. All the internal codes, all the internal software, all the internal processes were geared to a system that was intentionally trying not to be a great customer experience, but instead just to be serviceable by a trained employee.

To undo that, to actually shift that around, the organization has to make a huge investment. Until recently, most organizations weren’t ready to make that investment, instead they did the opposite. They kept piling more stuff into these systems that eventually created so much debt that now they have to stop what they’re doing and reinvent themselves.

To do that requires massive executive support. This isn’t just the executive saying, “Yes. This is the year that design’s important, we’re all going to focus on design,” and then you ever hear about it again.

These are executives that are making decisions like, “No, that thing that we would have shipped last year is no longer acceptable and we’re not going to ship it this year. We’re going to undo what we did and take the hit and rejigger everything, in order to get something that is a better customer experience out.” This is really the big crux of things, because companies that start today don’t have this problem.

The textbook example is to compare Airbnb to, say, Hyatt hotels. The interesting thing about Airbnb and Hyatt hotels is that Hyatt’s been around for 40 years and Airbnb has been around for less than 3. The thing is that Airbnb is making a dent.

There was a memo circulated around the hotel industry recently that stated that in cities like New York there are 35,000 rental spaces available in Airbnb. The hotel industry is getting hit. Their occupancies are dropping.

What used to be 90 percent occupancies in cities like Chicago, New York, and LA are now running at on average 80 percent. They’re attributing a lot of this to Airbnb. How does a company like Hyatt become competitive against Airbnb?

Sean: That’s got to require true executive support, not just the lip service that you made reference to.

Jared: Yeah. You’ve got to rethink the whole business. Every touchpoint, every internal system, everything has to be rethought. That shift, that’s turning a cruise ship.

In the case of a company like GE which as multiple divisions, each of which could be a company that is an industry leader in its own thing, like GE Healthcare, their transportation services, or their jet engine industry which competes against Rolls-Royce. GE is not just turning a cruise ship, that’s turning a whole navy.

You’ve got to have support across every function, and that’s got to be top down and it’s got to be massive. It’s got to be something where the organization is saying, “This is so important, we’re going to take the hit for having to retool our operations to make this work.”

Sean: At the UX Advantage Conference, will you be speaking with folks that will discuss and describe how they gained this support?

Jared: Oh, yeah. We’ve got a whole army of folks to talk about this.

We’ll have Steve Turbek, who’s the SVP of design for Fidelity, who, with his team and with the complete support of Abigail Johnson, who owns and runs Fidelity—the Johnson family owns Fidelity—are reinventing what customer service is like at Fidelity, completely rethinking this system that used to be exclusively through their financial advisors. Now they’re rethinking the role of the website and their applications and the financial advisors, and how they all work in sync. He’s going to talk about how he was able to prove that they needed to switch to an agile-based system, to integrate design into that, and he pushed forward on that.

Bill Scott, at PayPal, is basically, at this point, the number-three guy at PayPal. He has been reinventing the engineering level of their user experience, figuring out how to change their system so that they can respond and build great customer experiences with a technology platform that’s actually flexible, so undoing all the legacy stuff from their early days and putting in all-new technology. Again, had to get complete buy-in and support for dismantling a huge machine that’s in, what, 238 different countries, with all these rules and regulations. This is not an easy job, to take apart all the business rules and take apart all the functionality and then reassemble it with this new technology platform.

Karen Pascoe, at MasterCard, is going to be talking about how, on the eighth day that she was hired, she and Cindy Chastain are infusing MasterCard with this whole design approach to all their products and services. Karen got called into the CEO’s office on her eighth day at the company. It was basically said, “Look, whatever you need, you have it. We just want to learn how to do this right.” She says that they’ve just been this incredible learning experience.

At GE, Samantha Soma’s going to talk about how she’s been working with every division to bring them online and to get them thinking about design and putting design into their practice, doing these workshops where she walks them through product development processes and actually builds new systems based on a design-infused approach. She’s been doing this with the complete support of the CEO of GE and all the top management there.

All these folks and all the others are going to be talking about how they had to work from the top levels down. This is no longer a grassroots effort. This is something that is top-down.

Sean: Listening to you talk, it sounds like there’s a significant amount of risk with this sort of organizational change, and you absolutely need that executive support to make any sort of change like this.

Jared: Oh, absolutely. You can see the organizations that are completely afraid of doing it. My good friends at United are completely scared of making any of these changes. They’re trying, but they keep just trying to put a veneer over broken systems instead of stopping and re-engineering the systems. To re-engineer systems, they have to re-engineer union contracts, they have to re-engineer how the basic operations of the airline work. All these things have to be done, and they keep patching it with bubble gum, and it’s not happening.

You compare that to an organization like Virgin America, where they’re rethinking it. Virgin has an advantage over United—they’re new. They didn’t grow up with these legacy systems.

These companies that I’ve been most interested in are the ones like United, that could show United the way, like Marriott or Capital One or PayPal, ones that have got these older legacy systems. MasterCard. MasterCard’s been around since the ’70s, and this whole technology thing just snuck right up on them. They realized that they have to make major shifts, and it’s not an insignificant shift. They have to replace every terminal in every restaurant and retail outlet that someone can swipe a card with to take something like Apple Pay, or whatever their new equivalent for that’s going to be, right?

These payment systems have to be upgraded, and someone’s going to have to either shoulder the cost of that, or convince all those merchants that this is worth it by giving the merchants a better experience. Because why would a restaurant owner want to pay a thousand dollars to get a new terminal if it’s not going to deliver value to them? They have to figure out how they’re going to create this customer experience that’s going to blow away their competition and, at the same time, make sure they don’t lose their trusted retail agents. It’s a huge problem.

Sean: It’s a very complex topic, and if anyone is struggling with this, they’d be well served to come to the UX Advantage conference.

Jared: You could say that with way more enthusiasm.

Sean: I’m going to get there.

Jared: [laughs] I know I’m excited about the UX. Are you excited about his conference?

Sean: I am. I couldn’t be more excited about it.

Jared: Yes!

Sean: I’m almost bouncing out of this seat here.

Jared: [laughs]

Sean: Once again, we’ve had the opportunity to talk to the co-executive producer of the UX Advantage conference, Jared Spool, and we’ve obviously gotten his co-executive support, and I want to thank him for his time.

Jared: [laughs] Yes, I was co-executing right over here the entire time.

Sean: Excellent. Watch for other podcasts covering more of the conference topics, and be sure to check out the conference speakers and all the topics at uxadvantage.com. We hope to see you in Baltimore August 18th and 19th. Bye for now.

About the Conference

UX Advantage covers UX strategy issues no one else is talking about.

Stay In Touch

Stay up-to-date about the next UX Advantage conference, live recordings, and podcasts.

UIE values your privacy.
We will never sell your e-mail address.