Got Strategy?

User experience design and strategy are inseparable. Some say strategy is at the center of UX design. Which I wholly agree with. In this article we simply recognize the difference between business strategy and interaction design strategy, what they may, and may not, have in common, and what the purpose of interaction design strategy is. I don’t pretend to have hold the strongest hand in this game, so your comments are strongly encouraged.

Got Strategy?

The way you can tell whether your organization has an interactive media strategy, and is using it, or not, is by how it measures goal achievement. If you produce interactive media and measure success in leads and sales (“conversion”), for example, then you have a sales strategy applied to media design and production. This is not the same as having an interactive media strategy. The way you can tell whether or not your organization has an interactive media strategy is if it measures interaction goals specifically. Because it is the user performing the interaction, user goals drive interaction goals. (This statement doesn’t require agreement.) For interactive media, strategy involves discovering directly the goals of those performing the interaction, and aligning our organizational goals to theirs, to ensure y/our success through theirs.

Brought To You By The Letters WWW: Who, What, Why

Users goals can not be measured by click maps or traffic analysis, any more than measuring traffic through a road intersection can tell you where people are going. Of course, if you track cars through a few intersections, some possible objectives can be deduced. But no goals, motives, or W’s: Who they are, What they really desire, Why that choice, instead of another: selected on purpose?, by accident?, was it partly what they wanted, if so, which part?. was did it meet some need if not the intended one?… and so on.

Scoping Scopes Scope

Strategy is also for managing scope, to make sure you can complete your project. And managing scope requires saying “no.” This can put designers in positions subordinate to non-designer managers in an awkward situation, for both. But that’s another story. Nevertheless, saying “no,” loud and clear, helps ensure success by producing no more than actually required for it. And success with little is a greater achievement than failure, or less success, with much.

Spinning Plate Tectonics

Strategies should be flexible enough to accommodate change (the only constant). The Constitution of the United States of America is a strategic document. Strategies, like constitutions, are about setting limits and defining boundaries. They say no to define yes (can one exist without the other?). When they reflect values worth defending according to essential principals of personal empowerment and happiness, we uphold them, naturally. E.g. “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (Article Six). A great example of an interaction design constitution is Getting Real (PDF, 468kb), from 37 Signals. Getting Real reflects 37 Signals values and philosophy, as well as providing insight in to design-first methods and organizational models. All of which have been upheld by the tests of time and market success.

Do we get to practice such high ideals all the time? No, but we should strive to, continually according to our values, beliefs, experience, and known methods. That is; our constitution. And if we find our constitution not up to the challenge of continual improvement without sure or clearly attainable success, then we should admit that we have no values worth upholding: we’re just in it for the money, or recognition, etc. Which is fine, if we’re honest: people seeking those goals primarily can better pursue them by other means than planning, designing, producing, and quality assurance testing interactive media, which, by nature, require specific kinds of creative impulses.

Georgio Venturi and Jimmy Troost published a Survey on the UCD integration in the industry, asking the question “Does business management understand that usability and User Centered Design must be part of the business strategy?” Their results: Yes 61%. No 21%. No response/unknown 18%. Not so hot. How would your organization respond? Got Strategy?

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