UX design management

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UX / UI Designer, Care Management Systems Ltd
May 13, 2022
What is UX Maturity?

UX maturity measures an organisation's aspiration and ability to deliver user-centred design successfully. It encloses the quality and consistency of research and design processes, resources, tools, and operations and the organisation's bias to support and strengthen UX now and in the future through its leadership, workforce, and culture. As the previous decade saw the embracing of Agile in software development, this decade is witnessing the growth of UX Design as a core pillar of trade's DNA. As an organisation grows its UX capabilities, those accountable for change need to plan and execute a roadmap from their current state toward a measurable vision of success.

Why is UX Maturity Important?

User Experience Design investments include increased sales, improved customer satisfaction, heightened brand impression, lowered development costs, and improved employee retention. The greater the level of UX Maturity within an organisation – the more significant the impacts of these benefits. The UX Maturity Model The UX-maturity model presents a framework to assess each organisation's UX-related strengths and weaknesses. We can use that assessment to determine an organisation's six stages. Further, this model provides insights into how an organisation can increase its UX maturity. The six stages of UX maturity are:

  1. Absent: UX is ignored or non-existent.
  2. Limited: UX work is rare, done carelessly, and lacks seriousness.
  3. Emergent: The UX work is practical and promising but done inconsistently and inefficiently.
  4. Structured: The organisation has a semi systematic UX-related methodology that is comprehensive but with changeable effectiveness and efficiency.
  5. Integrated: UX work is thorough, pervasive and influential.
  6. User-driven: Commitment to UX at all levels leads to profound insights and exceptional user-centred–design conclusions.

Factors in UX Maturity

Improving UX maturity requires growth and transformation across numerous factors, including:

  • Strategy: UX leadership, planning, and resource priority
  • Culture: UX knowledge and elevating UX careers advancement
  • Process: the organised use of UX research and design methods
  • Outcomes: deliberately defining and measuring the results produced by UX work
None of these factors stands alone; instead, they build up and empower each other. Knowledge of UX processes does not establish a great UX team if the organisation's leadership does not prioritise UX work; besides, belief in the value of UX only becomes triable methodologies are put in place to 'practice what you preach.' Organisations must progress in all these dimensions to reach high levels of UX maturity and realise the absolute value of user-centred design.

Stage 1: Absent

A company at this stage is either blind to UX or believes it does not need it. User-centred thinking is not at all part of how it works. (A company has a user-centred mindset if users are the driver behind its strategy, tactics, and decisions.) UX work is not planned, let alone integrated into the organisation's vision. The few employees at the organisation who think about users are usually ignored or dismissed. At this stage, most companies fall outside the technology and software fields and exist in industries where UX is unknown or rarely practised. Other organisations at this level could be anything from start-ups to established organisations with inherited work processes that were not focused on users. Variations Within This Stage When UX is absent, there may be complete ignorance about UX, apathy, or half-hearted intentions which favour the idea of UX but fail to follow through with actions. There may even be bitterness towards the entire concept of adopting UX practices in some cases. This stage also includes organisations where developers know that UX is important and attempt to create good experiences but do not have access to methods, resources, or organisational support. (In our original model, this 'developer-centred' UX was an independent, more significant stage; we now combine these organisations within stage 1 as even the best motives of hard-working developers are not adequate to harvest meaningful results in the absence of organisational backing.) Difficulties to Overcome When UX Maturity Is Absent The fundamental difficulty is the absence of education:

  • What UX is
  • UX benefits the customers and the organisation
  • Possible internal UX processes
  • How to begin UX workflow
Building UX awareness within the organisation is required to progress from this stage.

Stage 2: Limited

In the limited stage, an organisation approaches UX carelessly. Small UX decisions are made mainly for one of three reasons:
  1. Legal obligation
  2. A UX-aware individual (maybe a leader) who pushes for action
  3. An experimental team that tries UX methods
While organisations at this stage may display some UX awareness and participate in random UX activities, UX work is not done consistently, nor is it frequently well-executed or integrated into strategy and planning. UX falls low among priorities. There's no official perception of user experience as a discipline, and there are no UX-dedicated roles, processes, or budgets. It is not consistently assigned and applied when a UX budget is available in limited-maturity organisations. Variety In This Stage At this stage, in many companies, UX-focused activities occur in silos, within one or two departments, while most of the organisation still sits at stage 1. Little UX work may occasionally recur within the same isolated team or may sporadically be attempted by other groups. Obstacles to Tackle When UX Maturity Is Limited Difficulties at this stage are often linked to the process: learning methods to complete UX work, organising a team of people, and starting to establish assets and routines. To advance from this stage, organisations should focus on getting people to listen by demonstrating the small UX-related wins, collecting positive case studies, and cultivating relationships with UX champions so UX can gain traction.

Stage 3: Emergent

When UX maturity is emergent, organisations display UX work in the broader set of teams, engage in UX-related outlining and may have UX budgets. HOWEVER, the UX efforts are small, ambiguous, and based on individual initiatives instead of organisational policies. Some teams that use many research and design methods and do multiple research studies may begin to see the value and results of their efforts. There are people in UX roles in emergent-stage organisations, but not nearly enough and not necessarily with the proper skill set. Organisations at this stage are still working on justifying the value and impact of UX. There are no general, efficient UX design processes in place. There is some managed usability, but UX is still the first to go when tradeoffs are crucial. UX is not yet prioritised as an essential strategy. It is common to witness large enterprises linger at stage 3, especially in long-established fields such as healthcare and finance. Variety Within This Stage UX work could be considered but is inconsistent. Or, work might be somewhat consistent but has no impact resulting in no value seen by people. Hurdles to Overcome When UX Maturity Is Emergent It's easy to assume that this stage is good enough, as we get stuck with the thought that we do UX now, but this is not the case at all. Focusing on building a culture of support for UX at all levels will help progress away from this stage and gather momentum. Ensuring that UX priorities are given due consideration when tradeoffs are made is another step.

Stage 4: Structured

Structured UX means that the organisation recognises and understands the value of UX and has established a whole UX team. Management usually supports UX and, at times, integrates it into high-level strategies. There is a definition of design and a shared, iterative human-centred design process. User research is conducted throughout the lifecycle of the product. Politics and miscommunication may cause misuse of resources and overspending on UX-related work, product areas, or products that do not require it. This level is where most organisations will ever go in their UX maturity. Variety Within This Stage Individuals in the UX team can be confident and comfortable. Other groups (product, development, marketing, QA, etc.) participate in some parts of UX work. At this level, UX operations are vital, and various research and design methods are employed. Hurdles to Overcome When UX Is Structured Though UX-centered processes are used, and teams see their benefits at this stage, they still face invisible fragility, which can often be linked back to strategy: Catering to a few big customers, unsupportive leaders, pressure with responsibilities and accountability as teams scale, success metrics that have little to do with UX, and development processes that don't include discovery research or iterative design rather than adhering to a proactive UX strategy.

Stage 5: Integrated

When organisations get to the stage of integrated UX, their UX work has become universal, pervasive and comprehensive. Almost all teams within the organisation generally perform UX-related activities efficiently and effectively. There is often modernisation in UX processes and methods and even contributions to the field of UX as a whole. The organisation's essential success metrics — that leaders care about— focus on UX or are even driven by UX-related work. Integrated UX is the stage that most organisations should aim to reach. At this stage, UX work is highly effective at delivering business goals. (At the next level, UX work doesn't serve business goals but users themselves; but that order is not always sustainable or practical.)

Variations Within This Stage

The staff and processes may be high-quality and consistent. Still, the organisation may get too focused on the process instead of the outcome and effects. At times leaders may be focused on metrics that are not user-centred.

Obstacles to Overcome When UX Maturity Is Integrated

Even though the user-centred design is respected, understood, and supported, factors other than user-centeredness genuinely drive the business. Focus on establishing user-centred outcome metrics at the highest levels of the organisation.

Stage 6: User-Driven

In Stage 6, UX is the norm -reproducible, chronic, and admired within the organisation. At this stage, everyone is thoroughly knowledgeable about user-centred design. Through research, understanding user needs are the primary driver of the organisation's strategy and project prioritisation. Development encompasses user-focused, iterative design. Leaders, teams, and individuals are user-centred and look to UX in day-to-day work — from the highest level of strategy to the minor design components or research studies. They plan for innovation and variation. Organisations at this maturity level rely on user research to drive new investments and markets. No Real Variations Within This Stage Compared to other stages, this stage has no variations: The business' vision is user-centred design or is highly interlaced with user-centeredness. Nonetheless, this stage may not be sustainable for long durations of time. For example, a company may have been entirely user-driven ten years ago. Still, gradually, through growth, acquisitions, and leadership and culture changes, the focus could have shifted away from users. When conversions or other business-focused metrics displace user-centred thinking, organisations skip back to structured (stage 4) or emergent (stage 3) UX-maturity levels. Obstacles to Overcome in the User-Drive Maturity Stage This stage is the UX-maturity goal, and it is not only difficult to achieve but also challenging to maintain for long durations before issues arise (resource bloat, conflicting goals, or politics) and maturity regresses. Focus on keeping the momentum of the UX effort and celebrating UX values. Educating new team members will prevent the organisation from falling back.
Methods of Measuring UX Maturity All UX Maturity measurement models have a standardised scale which begins at the bottom level of being unfamiliar with User Experience and finishes at the highest level of UX Design integration (full UX maturity). Between these two extremes are distinct 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 assess an organisation's current strengths, create a UX Strategy, and provide milestones to help measure success. The diagram below display's Leah Buley's five levels of UX:

  • Level 5: Visionaries -Design is a business strategy (5% of organisations)
  • Level 4: Scientists – Design is a hypothesis and an experiment (12% of organisations)
  • Level 3: Architects – Design is a standardised, scalable process (21% of organisations)
  • Level 2: Connectors -Design is what happens in a workshop (21% of organisations)
  • Level 1: Producers – Design is what happens on screens (41% of organisations)

How do you grow UX Maturity?

UX practitioners need continual educational opportunities/training to grow their skill set. Training and education translate into greater UX maturity when the training is done at scale, and all UX practitioners are learning either new skills and tools or mastering the skills and tools they currently have

  1. Finding and utilising UX Champions 
  2. Beginning stages: the UX champion will plant seeds and open doors for growing UX in an organisation.
  3. Demonstrating the ROI/value of UX 
  4. Beginning stages justify more investment; later stages justify continued investment.
  5. Knowledge Sharing/Documenting what UX work has been done 
  6. Less relevant/possible in the earliest stages of maturity when little UX is done. It creates a foundation and maintains institutional knowledge even when individuals leave or change roles.
  7. Mentoring 
  8. Middle and later stages of maturity include Growing individual skills in a two-way direction that exposes more people to UX and improves the knowledge transfer of more senior UX, leading to a shared understanding of how UX looks and implements in the organisation.
  9. Education of UX staff on UX tools and specific areas of UX expertise
  10. All stages of maturity require the continued education of UX staff.
  11. Education of non-UX staff on UX principles and processes
  12. All stages of maturity benefit from the education of non-UX staff.

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