A practical guide to level up the UX maturity in your company - levels 1-3

When levelling up in UX maturity, it’s easy to feel like your efforts aren’t unified or that the results of your activities have plateaued or stalled. By applying a robust framework to your tactics and strategy you can ensure your business goals, resources, tools, technical capabilities and the needs of your users are aligned.

As with all new design processes, it can be hard to get started. How do you know what stage you are in your UX maturity? How do you identify what you need to do to reach the next maturity level and what to prioritise?

This article will talk you through the first three steps of the six you need to follow to reach UX maturity. We’ll cover how to develop a UX strategy, how to build the right culture, how to identify skills gaps, and much more. We cover steps 4-6 of levelling up in UX maturity in a later article. Even if you are pretty confident in your UX strategy, it’s a good idea to take a peek at the following information to make sure you’re optimising your efforts so far.  

What is UX maturity?

According to the Nielsen model, UX maturity measures the ability and desire for a business to successfully develop and deliver user-centered design. This includes measuring the quality of the design processes, research, tools, capabilities, culture, workflows, and operations - then creating an actionable plan for improvement.

Level 1 - Sparking the need for UX

Building and promoting a culture in your business that understands the need and value of UX is the first and vital step. So, with user-centered thinking in mind, let’s start with the ‘why’.

Why do you need to build a UX culture?

Different business functions have different agendas. In the haste to boost revenue and increase market share, the needs and opinions of the users often get sidelined. This means that users aren’t driving the company strategy and design-making process - as you do see the value of this, take on the challenge to make sure the users are heard. Building a UX culture is a key part of this.

How do you start building a UX culture in your business?

Building a UX culture takes time - but the efforts are worth the rewards. Always keep in mind that stakeholders in your business are likely to be more interested in ROI than the design process so include plenty of hooks about the added value of UX in your approach.

Here are some tips to help you overcome obstacles and promote the importance of UX in your business.

  • Encourage your team to revisit and reassess their understanding of how customers are using your product or service. Challenge the idea that they know who the users are and what they want and need.
  • Using feedback from point 1, explore hypothetical situations where a better understanding of UX could help improve product development, marketing, customer service, sales etc.
  • Conduct awareness sessions where you talk about UX. Share success stories from other companies and/or invite UX experts to speak.
  • Start a newsletter where you share an overview of the UX projects you’ve been working on, with the rationale. Include links to success stories from other companies.
  • Pick one or two quick-win projects where you focus on using UX methods to design the best solution. This could be as simple as designing or improving a sign-up form to increase conversions. Good UX = more sign-ups = better ROI.
  • Hang in there; it is not going to change overnight, but you’ll get there in the end!

Level 2 - A UX strategy exists but lacks cohesion and integration

You’ve done the hard work getting people on-side with your UX strategy, and some of your more design-focused colleagues are taking the initiative. But UX is not consistently well-executed or incorporated into strategy and planning and there are skills gaps that need addressing.

At this point, you need to create a prioritised list of UX objectives, based on impact and effort and put a budget together that will help you achieve your goals. Keep sharing those success stories and building a network of like-minded people and businesses that can help you move forward. Create allies by reaching out to co-workers with an interest in UX. This helps ensure you don’t work in silos and you can identify opportunities to create UX roles that meet a variety of company needs.

Level 3 - UX is maturing but requires a company-wide commitment

Level 3 in your UX maturity finds you enjoying the benefits of dedicated UX roles and budget, but there’s no shared way of working yet and a UX culture needs to be embedded throughout the business. Some departments may be experimenting with UX methods and seeing positive results. Now’s the time to harness the momentum.

Organise regular meetups with your UX-ers and external UX partners to inspire and learn from one another. Develop a shared way of working and a cohesive design culture. Then communicate this to the product teams, focusing on how it will benefit them. Adjust your UX case studies to demonstrate how you are measuring success and what you have already achieved.

Finally, keep strengthening alliances throughout different levels of your organisation. You have created cultural awareness, now it’s time to show how a dedicated UX department would work. Focus on how you’ll achieve this incrementally and the projected ROI as you scale up. Making sure you communicate the evolving benefits to the business as the UX strategy matures.

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