Preface

STRATEGY IS ABOUT CONNECTING THE DOTS. IT REQUIRES YOU TO LOOK at what’s happened in the past and what’s going on in the present to make better guesses about the future. People who do strategy need to be inquisitive, objective, and fearless. They need to be risk takers who stalk and kill their prey by going for the throat.

User experience (UX) strategy lies at the intersection of UX design and business strategy. It is a practice that, when done empirically, provides a much better chance of a successful digital product than just crossing your fingers, designing some wireframes, and then writing a bunch of code.

This book presents a solid framework on the practice of UX strategy. It is geared specifically for crafting innovative products and takes you through numerous lightweight techniques that you can use regardless of your work environment. The basic principles of business strategy do not need to be a mystery requiring somebody with an MBA to understand. Strategy, just like design, is something that you can master only by practicing it.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book addresses the large knowledge gap between UX design and business strategy. It was written with the following types of product makers in mind:

Entrepreneurs, digital product managers, and intrapreneurial teams

You want to lead your team—visual and UX designers, developers, marketers, and so on—to craft a successful product with a killer UX. However, there are limitations on your time, cash, and other resources, and that means focusing your team’s efforts on techniques of applied simplicity, or putting the most essential and affordable tools into practice. You understand Lean Startup principles and want to cut corners on research and evaluation, but you also know that you need to make decisions based on a sound strategy. This book will provide you and your team with the necessary lightweight tools for testing value propositions, finding opportunities for creating value in the marketplace, and designing for conversion.

UX/Interaction/UI Designers

You’re frustrated. You feel like you are a cog in the wheel making design deliverables. You want your work to be more innovative and strategically sound, but you aren’t involved with product definition at a strategic level. You fear that you are hitting a career wall because you don’t have a business degree or marketing expertise. This book will teach you how to push back when you find yourself in the following situations:

  • You’re assigned to create a site map and wireframes for a product that you believe is just a rip-off of an existing one. You don’t want to spend the next six months reinventing the wheel. This book will show you how to be innovative by systematically cherry-picking from your competitors.

  • You have a stakeholder who is 100 percent certain that his product vision is right, and you are told to implement it as is. You want to do user research to help him deviate from his original vision, but he won’t give you the budget. This book will demonstrate different options for being intrapreneurial with or without buy-in.

  • You get handed a massive requirements document for a transactional product and are told to come up with a design that will increase conversion. This book will show you how to break down the stages of engagement and map desired actions to metrics.

Why I Wrote This Book

What has kept me on my toes while being a software designer and practitioner is being a part-time teacher of the evolving discipline of user interface (UI) design and product strategy. Since 1993, I have taught everything from graduate-level courses for engineering students to adult education courses for working professionals who wanted to reposition their career tracks with more marketable skill sets. But there was never a perfect book in any of those situations that gave my students everything they needed. Instead, I was constantly hounded to share my presentation decks, sample documents, and templates. I wrote this book to finally consolidate into one resource everything I know about the practice of UX strategy, which I learned from my work with startups, agencies, and enterprises.

I also hope that designers and product makers who are aspiring strategists will gain from my years of professional experience. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my professional and personal life, and they have informed my attitude toward trial and error. This is why even from the beginning I didn’t want to write a dry business or technology book. I wanted to write a book that chronicles the vitality and fluidity of what we actually experience in the real world of product design. I wanted to depict the entrepreneurial spirit, which isn’t just about success or techniques that always work. I wanted to share that journey with the hope that you won’t get as scuffed up as I did along the way.

How This Book Is Organized

I organized this book based on how I have fine-tuned my teaching method over the years. Therefore, the first way to read this book is as it was originally intended—as a how-to guide to making an innovative digital product. If that’s how you choose to read it, you’ll want to begin with an idea or problem you hope to solve through a digital interface, because the only way to learn how to swim first is to get in the pool and become comfortable with freezing your butt off. As you and your team move through the chapters, you’ll unlock techniques in a linear order. Then, when you’re acquainted with all the techniques, you’ll be able to practice them in the future in whatever order works best.

The book has 11 chapters. Chapter 1 establishes what UX strategy is and is not. Chapter 2 introduces the UX strategy framework that will shape all the tools and techniques in this book. Chapter 3 through Chapter 9 teach you how to perform those UX strategy techniques. Chapter 10 includes four interviews with top strategists around the globe to give you some insight to their different perspectives on the subject. And finally, Chapter 11 wraps everything up in a brief conclusion.

What Is the UX Strategy Toolkit?

This book comes with a complimentary toolkit so that you and your teams can begin using it immediately for nailing a stellar UX strategy for your product. I’ve been refining these tools for years with clients, using them both for collaboration and as an output deliverable. They might seem unwieldy at first, but they are a crucial starting place to learn how to conduct efficient UX strategy. As you read, you’ll come across in-depth explanations of how each tool works and the benefits that each one provides.

To access the free UX Strategy Toolkit, go to the following URL:

After you download the toolkit—an Excel (.xlsx) file—simply import it into Google Drive as a spreadsheet. You will have full editing and sharing privileges; so, by all means, share it with your team. There are tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet with which you can switch among the different tools.

UX strategy requires collaboration among team members and stakeholders. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a student in a classroom, a fledging startup, or a cross-functional team at an enterprise. The tactics don’t work unless you all work together. The best way to collaborate in this digital age is through cloud-based tools, and the cloud-based toolkit for this book will help you to align your onsite and remote teams to a product vision. It’s also great because you can work together in real time on the same document, virtually chat with teammates, or leave contextual notes for later.

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Acknowledgements

This book would not be in front of your eyes without my constant collaboration with Sarah Dzida. I first met Sarah in my UX design class while she was pursuing a master’s degree in writing. We eventually worked on a number of UX strategy and design projects together, which gave her firsthand insights into helping me tell the stories behind my business cases. In the end, she did everything from helping me write the book proposal to serving as my writing coach from sample chapter to final draft, acting as the lead editor and applying her genius talents to structurally weave all of the crazy narratives together across the chapters into a seamless epic. I’m forever grateful to her for sticking with me throughout my entire quest of becoming an author. I also want to extend my thanks and gratitude to the following people:

  • Big thanks go to Lane Halley, my “Number 1” UX Guru and Lean Startup Queen, who has been my sounding board for this project since the first time it was presented as a lecture in Los Angeles.

  • Thanks to the contributors including Chaim Diesto, Miles Frank (portraits of strategists), Ena De Guzman, Geoff Katz, Jared Krause, Zhan Li, Paul Lumsdaine, Peter Merholz, Holly North, Bita Sheibani, Michael Sigal, Milana Sobol, Michael Sueoka, Eric Swenson, and Laurel Wetzork.

  • Thanks to O’Reilly Media and my editing team, Mary Treseler and Angela Rufino.

  • Thanks to my awesome son Terry for giving me that special raison d’ être to keep my eyes on the prize. I dedicate this book to him and the rest of my family.

  • Thanks to all my ballet teachers for teaching me an art form and a practice that kept me sane throughout this project.

Thank you, Los Angeles, for being my home.

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