What makes a UX Strategy successful

In the design world, “strategy” is an overused word, but an underutilized tool.


Bilgi Karan

3 years ago | 4 min read

All successful companies have strategies that govern most of their functions including technology, people, portfolio, financial, and even legal. However, it is very rare to hear about a UX Strategy inside the boardroom of any company.

In the design world, “strategy” is an overused word, but an underutilized tool. More often than not, it is misused in lieu of vision or future planning. It is true that strategy is near to these two concepts, but neither of them are a real substitute for strategy.

There are many definitions of UX Strategy.

One that is quite respected comes from Jaime Levy as: “Orchestration and future planning of all touch-points concerning the end users”. Even though I agree with this definition in its core, we can still develop it further.

I have to confess that, in the past, I mistook planning and especially visionary innovation work as UX Strategy and maybe I have some clients to apologize to. In my defense, a set of good practices were yet to emerge when I was conducting these projects.

The best is yet to come from actual real-life experiences of many design leaders and practitioners. So, hence my effort to contribute to these effort with this piece.

In the design world, “strategy” is an overused word, but an underutilized tool.

A general definition of strategy tells us that it is “an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions the firm in its industry so as to create competitive advantage and superior value.”

Traditionally, strategists focused mainly on the movements of their companies against the backdrop of fierce competition. That is one aspect missing from the definition above.

In his cornerstone book “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy”, Richard Rumelt emphasizes the underrated qualities of good practices such as focusing on being brave and unexpected.

What Strategy is not

Many misunderstandings around this misused concept are variations on the same themes.

A Vision — A strategy is not a vision. It is visionary. Just defining a vision does not mean that you get a strategy for free.

A Plan — for a great strategy to work, you’ll need a great plan, for sure. But just planning does not do the trick by itself.

Guidelines — Again, you do need guidelines, but they will not tell you how to reach your long-term goals. One common thing about great guidelines is that it needs to be constantly updated. A good strategy includes guidelines but in and of itself, it does not have to be updated very frequently.

Agility — Just a few months of visibility will never be enough for you to reach big goals. Yes, the tech world is fast but values and grounded ideals don’t change very fast.

Averaging — Others’ best practices will not give a unique edge to your company. Trying to create a shopping list derived from benchmarking will simply not do.

UX Strategies are no exception to the misconceptions listed above. A good strategy tell you not only where to go but also how to get there. Since you will be using less energy to achieve more meaningful goals, you can rely on less key resources. A good set of strategies in all aspects of a company should not only give you efficiency but also efficacy.

Of course, you can — and you should — course-correct along the way but the revisions of your strategy should only be done based on evidence and deep insights of the user behavior.

We literally can’t survive anymore unless we stop isolating the problems of the world from the problems of our businesses.

What makes a great UX Strategy

Reaching a long-term goal and catching a competitive edge in the long-term takes patience, perseverance and trust in the process and leadership.

Moreover today, beating the competition is not enough, especially if it is done with a “whatever-it-takes” attitude. Ethical considerations should be a major part of your agenda, whatever your strategy is.

Therefore, there are three main qualities that a UX Strategy needs to be successful:


A weak and middle-of-the-road strategy will only bring ambiguity and mediocrity. Being brave and unexpected will give your competitors a hard time and sharpen the focus of your team.

You don’t have to keep your UX Strategy as a secret for this to work. You need to build on your company’s “unfair advantage” — whatever that may be. Plus, it needs to climb above industry standards. (As in, ‘focus on usability’ is not a valid strategy)


A UX Strategy that is a long to-do list will not help you make decisions when you come to a cross-roads. It is well-defined and hard to misinterpret.

If your UX Strategy includes design jargon, you need to spend a lot of time educating the organization around the new vocabulary.


A UX Strategy or a design function can never stand on its own. It needs to be in harmony with the rest of the organization. Build your UX Strategy on top of your company strategy, not against it.

Don’t forget to be nice. We literally can’t survive anymore unless we stop isolating the problems of the world from the problems of our businesses. If ethics and being nice is not a part of your company strategy, that is a problem.

Still, UX function can be one of the best advocates of humane values as well as sustainability in the boardroom.

One of the best things that happened to Design in the recent years is the increase of our influence on the strategic decisions. This gave the users we are serving a voice in the upper echelons of powerful companies.

Now that we have finally been invited to the famous seat at the table, it is time to use it properly. Let’s not squander it.


Created by

Bilgi Karan







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