According to Michael Porter, “Strategy defines the company’s distinctive approach to competing and the competitive advantages on which it will be based. A good competitive strategy is one that creates unique value for a particular set of customers.”
On the other hand, the UX strategy is about how you can leverage UX design to achieve those business goals set in business strategy, gain that competitive advantage, and at the same time, address customer’s pain-points.
UX strategy is vital to eliminating pain points for businesses, such as reducing support calls and satisfying other business goals in a timely fashion. Satisfying customers by addressing their goals to build trust with them, to build engagement and retain them, and to attract new customers to grow further. Users want assurance and confidence from businesses. Affirming their problems helps improve the user experience for solving business problems.
The first thing to devise strategy is understanding the unique challenges each product stage presents – a new or early-stage product, a mature product, and a stagnant product. The next thing to consider is whether the product is a customer-facing product or an employee-facing product. Deciding whether budgeting plays a role in each strategy helps businesses with identifying and planning for resources.
Seven strategies to apply for solving these three core areas for businesses are:
- Strategy One: Customer Journey Map
- Strategy Two: Choosing the right demographic
- Strategy Three: Personalization
- Strategy Four: Emotional Design
- Strategy Five: Hick’s Law: Minimalism
- Strategy Six: Gamification
- Strategy Seven: Avoiding Dark Patterns
UX Strategy One: Customer Journey Map
Customer Journey maps are good for products that are essential to all product stages. Products have found their target audience and chosen paths for their UI. However, they need to further understand the user’s thinking process when they engage in different interactions on products. The Customer Journey map is where it’s a timeline of user interactions that describes the users’ thoughts and emotions during the journey process. Customer Journey Map is different from user flow. Unlike user flow maps that are in the building stage of UX that focus on the technical aspect of tasks that users engage in, customer Journey map discusses interactions but the psychology of users’ emotions. Customer Journey maps would be in the analyzed stage of the UX process.
According to (I will get the original resource), there are five stages to create effective customer Journey maps for products. These stages are:
- Stage One: Defining the scope
- Stage Two: Defining a user persona
- Stage Three: Defining scenario and user expectations
- Stage Four: Creating a list of touchpoints and channels
- Stage Five: Taking user intentions into consideration
Defining the scope for startup products is where product managers have to identify what’s the area of concentration. The customer journey map can lead to a high-end map with numerous experiences and interactions users will take for the product. For a Journey map focusing on limited interactions, it can consist of a deeper analysis of one particular interaction. Identifying this stage first will make the next steps easier to focus on identifying scenarios and learning from users’ thinking processes for interactions. At this stage, identifying user and brand needs, along with conducting UX research, should have already been done.
Having some user research at the beginning process of the product, defining the user persona is for a better understanding of what type of users are in one’s target market. It’s a representation of the type of user an app is designing for. This process, one would identify the elementary characteristics of their ideal user from their target audience. Identifying the demographic, sex, interests, and goals of the ideal user is vital to understand their level of thinking.
Defining the scenario and user expectations are when product managers have identified the scenario of their product and the expectations they expect users to have. An example of this can be creating a UI for a food delivery service where the user expectations are to have food under 10 minutes. This part of the Customer Journey map is the most important as product managers and startup businesses can backtrack to the pain point of their customers and identify the expectations they’re more likely going to have. This part of the Customer Journey Map should be remembered for other parts of the UX process as the startup product progresses.
After defining the scenario and user expectations, one can then create a list of touchpoints for understanding users’ intentions by writing down different reasons for how a user would find the product. Examples can be a user reading a case study, or a user is looking to compare prices to existing products. New products should use UX research from user pain points and information from user persona for this stage to understand what kind of touchpoints would be their ideal customer. After creating a list of touchpoints, one would write a list of channels for where they found the product. Examples of channels can be from a business blog, finding the app on the App Store, or even from a social media post about the business. Mature products should already have existing touchpoints and channels for the product but should be monitored to see if any new trends or changes have been made from new UX research. Stagnant products may have the wrong list of channels and touchpoints that are mismatched or poor UX research from their persona; therefore, product managers should update existing research.
Taking consideration of the different types of user touchpoints is the last part of the customer journey map process before writing it down. This is where new products have to use logical thinking to decide all the potential reasons why customers are using the app. Essential questions to ask are: Is it for business purposes? Are customers looking to compare our statues from competitors? Is it because our UI is easily navigable from other competitors? For stagnant products, similar to the previous paragraph, they could be looking at mismatched touchpoints and channels that could have led to invalid assumptions of why a user would use the product. Poor UX research could be at play at this stage for products not making any progress. Mature products should have existing information for their users’ intentions. Product managers should look at whether to continue enforcing methods from previous research or should see if certain purposes have changed.
Employee facing products where users need to create drafts for product managers, understanding this five-step process can be helpful. Employees who have tasks for conducting business research or in charge of app development can use Journey maps with color-coded sections for each stage process to draft out clear and concise data. The research will be more detailed, and UX designers can develop efficient wireframes for better prototypes.
For new products that have already gathered user data, finding free tools to use for designing customer journey mapping would be beneficial as company funds shouldn’t have to use a budget for this. This will help new products begin to stretch budgets to avoid product managers and startups to avoid going into financial debt when launching the app. For stagnant products that are spending money while remaining stuck, checking existing Customer Journey map tools and even tools conducting UX research can help stabilize their budget. At this point, product managers can decide whether to add or remove existing tools that cost. For mature products, there should already be customer Journey maps. Checking existing tools being used for the maps can help managers decide what further actions need to take place for the budget.
UX Strategy Two: Choosing The Right Demographic
Another UX strategy is choosing the right demographic population. For new product design, this is part of the understanding process (being the first stage of the six-stage UX process) for understanding users and the brand. The demographic population would depend on one’s target audience. The main target audience that is looked at as the future of this generation is GenZ. This age range ranges from 17-25 years old as of 2020. According to App Annie, GenZ spends 20% more time on mobile devices on apps and engage with their most-used apps 30% more than the older demographic (25 and older) in 2018. Even though gamification is a popular trend to implement for UX, this is not the case for GenZ. According to this information, studying this age range is beneficial for mobile apps.
Gamification should not be a significant role for a strategy for this age range, but for older audiences over 25 years old. Top areas of interest for GenZ are socializing, communication, shopping, banking, etc. Although every UI should be responsive to mobile devices, Mobile phones are used most frequently for this age range with smartphones. This is where stagnant products have difficulties to grow if they’re not using responsive design. Researchers spend an extended amount of time having the right existing strategies but looking at the wrong target audience. Stagnant products that fail to work on different size devices reduce conversion rates and left with product managers back to the drawing board.
Studies show that 74% of games accounted for consumer spending in 2019. This study consists of more people, ages 25 and older. According to the same survey, people spend 75% more time each month on their most-used games and access them 50% more often. These games are mostly mobile app games. This research indicates that for generation X (39-50) and Millennials (25-38), elements for gamification are important for apps targeting these age ranges.
When looking at people of older age (ages 65+), being the baby boom generation, accessibility is essential to remember. With many older people, impairments and disability could be an issue. For this age gap, products place significance on cognitive memory. Not stressing out the cognitive load will prevent poor UX and poor usability with navigation. This target audience may face issues with limited memory or attention span. If this is your demographic population, certain things to keep in find are universal design with a generalized UI that satisfies all impairments. A user interfaces to accommodate all impairments.
After choosing the right demographic, this is good for products that are stuck in the first stage of the six-step UX Process (understanding audience and brand needs). It will be easier to look at what strategies to implement for apps interfaces and to make sure their mission statement is accurate for their corporation by asking:
- What trends are my target audience f apps
- What are the pain points of my target demographic
- How can my business reach this age gap
- What steps do my users need to take
For employee-facing apps, employees that have to work on the floor, or having to gather user insights for effective reports can be essential tasks. Employees have products to access better data on their corporations targeted demographic can help them make better decisions for the customer. For example, employees working in retail knowing their target audience is children, using an app for understanding their demographic like a cheat sheet can help make better decisions by knowing trends in children’s attire and media for making suggestions. Employees using UX apps that give better user insights can craft better strategies for higher returns in positive customer experience and profit.
Depending on the target demographic, choosing to expand on certain advanced graphic features, such as gamification, could cost. At the same time, gamification can still be implemented using free resources for apps without even having to spend money. For example, businesses can promote using point systems without having to spend any funds for gamification. Companies can set limits to the number of features to be used for this strategy. This will stretch budgeting to use for other areas of focus, helping new products avoid going into financial debt. For new products looking to use specialized tools for UX research that could cost with monthly fees or app purchases, finding tools with flat fees can help. If your business has a tighter budget with no room for extra tools with monthly payments, free alternative tools for researching demographics such as Consumer Barometer can help with user insights and gathering data for targeted demographics.
UX Strategy Three: Personalization
To better understand what users want and how to get them to convert to your business instead of others is personalization. For mature products, product managers may already have the right methods for their products using the right strategy of minimal design targeting the right concentrated audience, but needs an extra push for higher engagement and app downloads. Personalization is similar to emotional design for compelling storytelling and making users feel more a part of a product, but there’s more to it. For the same reasons as accessibility, product managers at the mature stage should know that universal UI generalized enough for anyone to use is still essential. Adding personalized components for users to make adjustments puts them ahead of other competitors—adjustments such as font size, coloring, or light and dark mode. Similar to emotional design, stagnant products are more than likely to be stuck until the right strategy for personalization is found.
Adding options for personal profiling is a second strategy for personalization. With many social media accounts, you see personalization with profile pictures, biographies, or even sharing content with others. These elements of personalization can be used for products. Products at this stage, although having the right resources and support, still want to look at how users see the app in terms of whether or not:
- Are users feeling they have more leeway for personalization
- Does the status and system of a product satisfy users needs and requirements for personalization
- Can the components be adjustable for reducing negative feedback
Applying personalization to have components adjustable will continue to improve, driving more downloads, brand communication, and better user experience. Even though the product is at the mature stage, this can help product managers maintain traffic flow and gain better insight into how this can improve existing areas that lack lower engagement in their UI and product. For products that might be in the stagnant stage, this can move app development in the right direction.
Facing issues on apps that lack personalization can be a frustrating process for employees that work for the customer service department. Workers who have impairments need personalization, where features can be adjustable for all impairments. Personalization for customer support can be used by offering features like live chat for the UI instead of using email. Another method that can be used is using a feature that color codes folders that order customer questions in different categories. This can reduce excessive support calls and have better ways of organizing customer questions, reducing employee confusion, and faster completion rates. Creating adjustable features for all impairments can create easier work environments and avoid negative customer feedback that could lead to future lay-offs.
Budgeting for personalization should not be a stressful factor. A mature product at this stage should already have a set budget for UX Design set up by the corporation. What should be looked at is the existing UX resources being used for the app. For this strategy, product managers should know that free features can be used without having to spend funds. An example is having product designers use free plugins or templates from UX Tools like Figma. Personalization should play a small part in the company’s budget. For instance, if managers were to use their budget to purchase premium tools for promoting personalized components to implement into the UI. Mature products can stretch their budget by monitoring the pricing of existing tools and even look into free existing plugins to use for their product.
UX Strategy Four: Emotional Design
Emotional design UX strategy is one of the best strategies successful companies leverage to stand apart from their competition- think Apple.
With the advent of cloud technology platforms like AWS by Amazon, GCP by Google, or Azure from Microsoft, the infrastructure is a leveled play-field for every company, even the startups and SMBs. They can launch new apps or scale them up rather easily compared to how it was a decade or two ago. So what differentiates one company from the other? How do you stand out in the crowd?
Emotional design is about understanding your customer so well that your product not only solves a specific problem for them but also exceeds their expectations.
UX Strategy Five: Hick’s Law – Minimalism
What many businesses fail to remember when looking for strategies for app structure and layout is avoiding Hick’s Law. Hick’s Law states that the more options you give a user, the longer it will take them to make a decision. This is more of a concern for stagnant products. This is where some companies make their mistakes. Some product managers are starting up to think a strategy for offering all these eye-catching features will eliminate the pain point of solving all of their customers’ problems and reduce customer support calls. Offering too much excessive content and options will stress out the cognitive load. Users stressed out will lead to
- Customers may not adopt business apps
- Users are likely to abandon apps
- Apps may not grow their customer base or revenues
An example of Minimalist design is Dieter Rams, Braun. When observing his designs, the level of simplicity, lack of multiple buttons; one solid color; and bland device structure stands out. In the past twenty years, you see that his idea of easy structure layout and simple design follows on over the years as a UX strategy. An example is Apple products. Steve Jobs used a simple layout not only for his devices but for UI and better user experience. Those products are now one of the most well-known products around the world with great ROI and have been used by three generations of users (GenZ – Millennials – GenX).
Showing too many elements slow down UI speed. Having a lot of large image files is the main reason for UI to slow down. According to a Google study, 53% of mobile users abandon sites that take longer than three seconds to load. Not only do too many elements stress out the cognitive load of customers, but it makes the UI slower in speed, putting a chance of decreasing app downloads and in-app purchases. For mobile screens, elements have to be reduced to a certain size to avoid lagging and better user experience.
One of the popular UI trends as of 2020 is minimal design. The minimal design uses a clear and concise approach for content. Reducing excessive components and elements while removing multiple color choices is what makes a design minimal. Studies have shown that this UI theme can be more favorable and have a better ROI.
Minimal design places emphasis on using white space. According to a social media study, white space boosts concentration by 20%. With an increase in focus and concentration, spacing and reduction are other elements. Acquiring enough space for elements to breathe is an essential factor for minimal design. It makes crucial content standout for users to take away what is essential and customers to make purchases easily. Reducing the number of options will help also. Using tactics like card sorting will help product managers decide what information to keep and what to remove. After implementing a minimal design to existing strategies, a new coming product will be on its way to becoming a mature product. Better corporate decisions to improve conversions on apps will be made and see steady app downloads.
Reduced features are good for apps specialized for employee users. Products made to check inventory or check stats for hourly profit; reduced components can help make spotting information faster. Minimal elements that are clear and concise help employees make decisions quicker for assisting customers and reduce support calls. Employees can spend less time having to learn how to navigate a frustrating UI to easing unnecessary tension for better user experience. Managers will see better customer reviews as a result of improved performance.
Using minimal design can save corporations more money by using less. Stagnant products that have used funds for additional research and purchasing advanced UX tools for adding multiple features can cut out tools that are draining money. The minimal design should not even make an impact on the company’s budget. This will help stagnant products move towards becoming mature products using less, but having the right amount of resources needed for customers to use. This will help employees that are having to work with multiple UX tools and features and reduce their cognitive load with limited tools.
UX Strategy Six: Gamification
Going back to previous stats mentioned, according to App Annie, gaming apps accounted for 65% of downloads and 74% in consumer purchases in 2018. People aged 25 and over, particularly Generation X and Millennials, accounted for 75% for spending the most extended amount of time engaging in gaming apps. The element of gamification doesn’t necessarily have to play into gaming apps but can be implemented for better user experience for particular concentrated fields.
This is good for new products. At the point, products are trying to give their products UI personalization and reaching their target audience in a way that adds more character and personality to the brand. They are looking for ways to communicate the brand and possibly have an older target audience being generation X and millennials. Implementing gamification for fields can attract the right target audience for consumer spend and downloads.
For this stage of the production process, for products that are not necessarily for gaming, inserting gaming mechanics into non-gaming apps and websites are ways to move new products up the ladder. The first way to do this is by setting up the product to operate with similarities as a gaming app. Several of the similarities are:
- Setting the UI of the app where it’s level based that rises as the customer gains more experience.
- Offering limited edition content / DLC sources for in-app purchases to communicate brand
- Offering actions then rewarding customers when actions are completed
- Using social elements for UI for customers to connect / similar to live and online play
Like many games, one starts out at the beginning level, then gradually works their way up as they gain more skill and experience. Products should use this same concept for selected target audiences to generate a fun and interesting approach for product engagement. As users learned to get more acquainted with the navigation process and familiarized themselves with content, the user experience can advance along with the users. This concept doesn’t indicate that content should be made more complex and challenge users as their experience progresses, but that the element of the experience advancing with the user is key for better engagement and driving traffic.
With many games, items such as DLC (Downloadable Limited Content) and limited sources are used as a way for users to use specialized features and items for the product. These items and features communicate brand by which they can’t be used anywhere else except for the app itself. This separates competitors from other corporations. Product managers can find improvement in traffic and boost engagement for a better experience. Startup CEOs can find better ways to improve company decisions for better brand image and boost brand communication for their corporation. These items can be featured on the UI. It will make stagnant products mature into personalized and fun to engage with. Several examples of DLC content are:
- Point or ticket system
- Personalized downloadable items
- Items for win
- Earning rewards like cash back or possibly for other exclusive items
For companies that reward their customers after engaging in certain actions can boost the brand’s image. Implementing tasks/features on the UI, such as a call to actions and users that complete those actions on the UI should have a chance to be awarded. This creates trust and loyalty for customers. Corporations can use this for building customer loyalty for brands or designing customer loyalty programs and product managers for increasing engagement rates and better user experience on apps and websites. This can change the status of the new product from no results to having a better ROI.
Social elements are essential. Games that use the internet to engage with other players on the interface builds a stronger community. Similar to how apps and websites use social media sign-on and social media to create accounts, users should be able to connect live with other users who are in the same target audience through the same UI. Users can build bonds with the brand, but communicate and share the experience with other users. They can learn and navigate on the UI together and share similar experiences. This can boost traffic, better testimonials, and communicate brand separating businesses from others. Most importantly, this will be a smart UX strategy for a better experience when promoting prototypes or beta testing.
For employee-facing products, gamification can be used for employees at a certain agency or business to promote app engagement. Products specialized for employee members for earning employee discounts, and reward points can boost morale. Gamification strategies can be used for apps for employees to check their sales performance and other workers. Features can be set up, such as charts for employees like a battle royal for seeing which employee is in the lead. The one with the highest stats can receive exclusive rewards or point system. This promotes fun and friendly competition. It can motivate workers to improve sales and boost morale for employees.
Similar to previous information, free features and ideas can be used for gamification without having to use money. For a new product, business startups can look at free gamification tools like tokens or point systems to implement into their UX strategy. This can save money without having to spend monthly subscriptions that can have a better ROI in the long run. This can stretch budgets for better use for other strategies such as executive support. For new products looking to spend in gamification software, looking at affordable gamification software can be useful. For low-end pricing software, there is Influitive that’s specialized for all industries, according to Technology Advice. NetBet is averaged priced specialized for consumer brands for mid-sized businesses. Before deciding on the right software, fixed pricing needs to be reviewed to determine if hidden or extra fees are used. Also, checking for the right quality software helps. For instance, NetBet is good for mobile apps, social integration, and POS integration. But according to Technology Advice, it received negative reviews.
UX Strategy Seven: Avoiding Dark Patterns
Many managers and business owners of SMB who are at the maturing stage of their product after choosing the right audience and doing research have heard of ROI. ROI can still be a factor to consider for maturing products. ROI for UI is areas that can still be studied for reassurance and to make sure all existing strategies being exercised are following what they’re doing and achieving better returns on investments made for app development.
Areas that should be analyzed to determine if ROI has or is still taking place for products are:
- Has the UI continued to satisfy its target audience through generalized UI that’s accessible to all types of users?
- Has all forms of traffic getting equal amounts of return or only in one area?
- Is the UI using the right keywords in UI body copy for SEO?
- Is using minimal design and eliminating excessive components satisfy Hick’s Law, or is there more to delete?
For new product design, you may be tempted to try and install features or use certain methods in apps that take a shortcut to satisfy business goals. It’s typical for product managers at the new product stage to be tempted to set strategies to achieve business goals to see more app downloads, more profit, and have an ROI that moves to a mature product. The target for dark patterns users are people who don’t
Before doing so, you need to stop and read this section before proceeding further. One strategy that can help achieve better ROI for new products is avoiding dark patterns. For new products that have already gathered basic research for UX strategy, you may have heard this terminology before with certain UX designs.
Dark patterns are tactics used by businesses for apps that make customers sign up for things or buy things that users don’t want to. Whereas a UX is supposed to be user-centered, focusing on the user during each phase of the design and development process, enterprises that use dark patterns are deliberately dissuading and persuading customers to benefit the brand’s objectives and goals instead of the user. Users of dark designs try to target users who:
- Fails to read the terms and conditions of the app
- Doesn’t read body copy thoroughly
- Doesn’t read the description from the App Store
Products at this stage need to focus on how to avoid using these methods to build trust from customers using value propositions and strategies that are truthful and honest. This will lead to better progress and avoid being stuck as a stagnant product with no progression. Avoiding these methods builds more engagement for the app that will eventually see higher ROI. Enterprises that are caught using dark patterns can earn a negative reputation leading to poor user experience on their products from taking advantage of users. If any methods suggest that multiple counts of soliciting for persuading users into taking action towards things that they wouldn’t want to do, or not making it aware of the options they have, these strategies need to be removed.
There are different types of dark patterns used, but four main ones are called:
- Forced Continuity
- Bait and Switch
- Roach Motel
Forced continuity can be seen most frequently for subscriptions. For example, apps may offer 30 free trials for users to get acquainted with an app that gives users free access to a service. For products using dark patterns, they may solicit users to put in credit and debit card information as a way to get them to sign up. If users fail to opt-out before the 30-day trial, they are automatically charged the monthly subscription charge. This subjects to users to have a negative experience due to hidden fees.
Bait and switch are where users are proceeding through taking an action that has an outcome but results in another unforeseen outcome. One way that an undesired outcome is performed is by offering a button that customers click on in the app that’s considered bait. An example is apps offering excessive app updates. The update limits the choices to either ‘Update Now’ or ‘Update Later.’ If users don’t want to update the app during that time, they may try clicking the top right X button. When clicking the X button, the product designer may have made it where users clicking on the X button automatically opts to update the system now. This would be considered bait and switch, and the X button is the bait.
Zuckering is when products share more personalized information from its customers. The name of this dark pattern was named after the CEO of Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg. Companies using this approach will hide the truth under their terms in conditions, most likely in small print, stating it will sell personalized information from customers to data brokers. Information about users can be sensitive and specific. Companies using this trick to break users’ trust and share customized information can create long-term damage to the relationship between the customers and the business. The uninstalled rate for apps using this tactic will more than likely increase.
Roach Motel is the process where it’s easy for users to create an account, but makes it difficult to opt-out, or delete an account. In this case, users can find it easy to create a profile on a UI for an app but may have to go through a long process just to delete it later on. Certain examples could be having to go through long security questions, or having to remember old passwords such as, ‘what is your favorite color’? For apps that offer subscriptions, the product can make it difficult for users to opt-out as well, which could lead to forced continuity to happen and charge customers.
For employee-facing products, new products will begin to have employees working with customers on certain tasks for customer service. Making sure employees are not both the victims and ones guilty of engaging with dark patterns helps prevent negative reviews. Including information on apps and copy in the UI that prevents hidden messages or hidden fees can help employees better by not misinforming customers. Preventing confidentiality is essential. Some products employees use can be for improving team communication or personalized profiles for apps. Certain apps like Homebase, for team management, contain private information about each employee about their performance and wages. New products used by employees need to avoid the zuckering tactic to prevent breaking the confidentiality of employees. Products used by employees that contains sensitive information about them could be
- Bank card information
- Personalized questions for password security
- Phone numbers
- Hourly wages
Avoiding Dark patterns can both help enterprises avoid losing money from their budgets and potential profit from sales for new products. Budgeting for this dark pattern is not necessary as there should be no reason for installing tools that could cost. The only thing needed to be implemented to the product is eliminating soliciting and hidden messages resulting in hidden fees, or stealing information. Methods can be used without spending any money. An example is displaying a price comparison feature on the UI. It can list fixed prices from one product to their other competitors. Using free features for preventing dark patterns can stretch budgets to use for other areas. This will reduce potential long term damages for earning a product a bad reputation, which would result in product managers and businesses having to spend more money to save the product.
For each stage of the product development life cycle, UX strategies can play a crucial role in determining success. At Designial, we offer assistance for helping businesses achieve this goal to ensure that products achieve business goals by providing the best user experience.
Designial offers a fixed cost pricing plan with no hidden fees, excluding the use of dark patterns. While most B2B enterprise-grade mobile app development projects cost twice as much as the original budget, our pricing is specialized for staying on budget. We reflect our pricing on the outcome of the product instead of the number of outputs produced.
Designial promotes personalization for customers with laid out plans and execution. We use incremental design and development, and base UX research on your targeted users for your business as a priority one. Whether a product is for customers or for employees, we will lay out all the strategies with a business-outcome focus, making it quicker to market.
It takes immense expertise and experience to get it right, so vet your app design agency candidates carefully. Fortunately, here at Designial, we deliver on all counts. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our services.