Do you know the difference between an assumption and a hypothesis?
An assumption is something that you suppose to be true, such as “Often PMs are engineers.” A hypothesis is also something that you suppose to be true, but it is stated in an unambiguous way so that it can be tested
This is the second edition of the famous book UX Strategy by Jaime Levy. While I wanted to read the first one, that never happened! There are a lot of tactical level details in this book which are omitted, in my view, because of the conciseness of the book, nevertheless it should serve as a good reference point! In short, if you want to give structure to your product development philosophy, you should give this book a try. One important caveat the author makes is that the UX strategy practice she described in the first edition is now synonymous with product strategy. So relax all the product managers out here!
I have tried capturing the essence of the book in the following headers
A. On Business Strategy, UX Strategy and Product Vision
A shared product vision means that your team and stakeholders have the same mental model for your future product
A good business strategy is one centered around the customer. This is why you must validate your presumed customer segment and their unmet needs.
- User experience (UX) strategy lies at the intersection of UX design and business strategy
- It’s an empirical process!
- Experience strategy is the combination of business strategy and UX strategy. The “user experience,” or “UX,” is how a human experiences a digital product while attempting to accomplish a task or goal
- A stellar UX strategy is a means to disrupt the marketplace through mental model innovation
As a product matures with a growing user base, it’s crucial to revisit your strategy. Conducting validation experiments to discover new customer segments, marketing channels, and revenue streams is a job that is never done
B. On Components of UX Strategy and Lean Startup
Four tenants of UX strategy are 1. Business strategy 2. Value innovation 3. Validated user research 4. Frictionless UX
The discovery phase is where UX strategy begins. The output of the discovery phase should be based on empirical evidence, such as getting direct input from target users before going straight from an idea to wireframes and development
The business strategy identifies the company’s guiding principles for how it will position itself and still achieve its objectives while beating the competition. For this to happen, the business must continually identify and utilize a competitive advantage
For a more mature company, the strategy is about building on the company’s core value proposition while trying to evolve the company’s infrastructure and internal processes to support that growth, often called digital transformation!
Business Model Canvas—customer segments, channels, value propositions, revenue streams, and customer relationships—are elements that are essential to creating a product’s online and offline experience
Lean startup made conducting validated user research a make-or-break aspect of moving forward on a product’s strategy. Validation is the process of confirming that a specific customer segment finds value in your solution
Lean Startup was proposed by Ash Maurya in 2010. Its components are
- Customer segments
- Unique value proposition
- Revenue streams
- Cost structure
- Key metrics
- Unfair advantage
C. On User Research
Research hypotheses are the answer to the question “What are the most important things I need to learn to determine if my solution is desirable and viable?”
Use your research to validate your decisions and ensure that the product vision is aligned with the end user’s needs
- The purpose of conducting user research is to understand the needs and goals of your target customer in order to inform the product’s value proposition
- Confronting your target customers is nonnegotiable. We must learn as quickly as possible if the idea we are working on is stupid and worthless
- Don’t take what your stakeholders or team says at face value. To learn what potential customers want, hunt them down in person
- It’s contested if you should ask a customer what they would pay for a product. Customers may lowball you or have no idea. however, getting a sense of what customers expect to pay may be helpful for informing marketing and pricing strategies
Customer discovery is about listening and not selling. The customer interview is actually made up of three parts: the introduction, the screener, and the interview. When you ask the money-shot question, just capture the essence of the person’s response and, if appropriate, ask any relevant follow-up questions
Qualitative research relies on the observation and collection of nonnumerical insights such as opinions e.g. focus groups, contextual inquiries, and ethnographic studies.
- Ethnographic research—the study of people in their natural environment—is all about getting to the deep, dark places, much like the qualitative personas
- Do not begin interviews with small talk. Be professional!
D. On Value Proposition
A value proposition takes the form of a concise statement that summarizes the unique benefits customers can expect from your product or service i.e. value proposition is what a company promises to deliver to the customer
But value propositions are not valuable if they do not solve a real problem. The followings are the steps to define a value proposition
- Define your primary customer segment
- Identify your customer segment’s (biggest) problem
- Create provisional personas based on your assumptions
- Conduct customer discovery to validate or invalidate your provisional persona and problem statement
- Reassess your initial value proposition based on what you have learned!
E. On Customer Segmentation and Value Creation
The customer segment is a group of people with a common need. These segments can be identified by a combination of demographic, psychographic, and behavioral attributes. For B2B products, you should create two personas: one for the person who will be paying for the product (i.e., the CTO) and one for the person who will be using the product
The problem statement should not presuppose a solution until the problem has actually been validated. By having product teams focus on the problem statement, they are more likely to have an open mind when ideating on solutions
Don’t confuse persona archetypes with stereotypes. Because personas provide a precise design target and also serve as a communication tool to the development team, the designers must choose a particular demographic characteristic with care
Because the provisional persona represents a group of people rather than one person, think of a concise, descriptive name to characterize the segment, such as “Gen X Parents in Los Angeles” or “Jewish Expats in Berlin.” It is useful to articulate common demographic denominators. Location is useful because it forces your team to pinpoint where a market for your product might exist instead of targeting the entire world
Motivation and behavior lie at the heart of value creation. Whatever product you are devising, it is crucial to understand what will motivate people to use it
F. On assessing customers’ needs and goals
What are their product-relevant hopes and dreams? What do they need to solve their primary pain point? What specific needs or goals aren’t being satisfied by available solutions or workarounds? What are the limitations they face? What is the job they are trying to get done?
- This section is particularly important to get right because it will inform your product strategy the most. You want actionable statements that address underlying customer concerns
G. On Competition, its definition and analysis
Direct competitors are companies that offer the same or a very similar value proposition to your current or future customers. Indirect competitors offer a different value proposition, but somehow their solution may satisfy the needs of your target customer
Investigate your competition
- What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? Why should customers come to you?
- Conducting research on the competition is a crucial component of business strategy
- The most efficient way to do a comprehensive competitive analysis is to collect all of the data in a matrix
- Scour YouTube and Vimeo for publicly available demonstrations, tutorials, and product reviews. If you need more information than what you can find online, you may need to bring in an outside agency
- For native mobile apps, you can currently get the last month’s downloads without an account using Sensor Tower
- One always needs to be on your toes, agile, and ready to scrutinize your competitor’s newest ideas and immediately see how they might affect your product vision
- By benchmarking the competition, you’ll find opportunities to create value by either innovating or optimizing the best UX and business model practices of other competing products
- If something looks incomplete or missing, did you or whoever did the research overlook an obvious competitor that needs to be considered?
- SWOT analysis of a nonexistent product or business moves us into the land of make-believe. This is why it’s more meaningful to use it for evaluating competitors from their perspective
H. On what to build?
Reaching beyond existing demand is a key component of achieving value innovation
To get your idea juices flowing on the key features, ask yourself these questions:
- What will make your provisional personas (hypothesized customers) love this product?
- What is the aha moment or part of the user’s journey online or offline that makes this product unique?
- What is a major pain point that you are trying to solve that is not currently being solved by competitors?
- What kind of workarounds are your potential customers currently doing to accomplish their goals?
- What is the core benefit for your customers that is derived from the output or manipulation of either your proprietary algorithm and/or data set?
- What is the functionality or page/screen layout that needs to be designed from scratch because there is no reference for it in any other digital product?
A product recommendation should answer the following questions
- Can a specific feature be majorly improved or new technology integrated to help customers do something that currently is too complicated or time-consuming for the existing alternatives?
- How can you make the product experience more personalized or “smart” to increase adoption and engagement?
- Is there a new revenue stream or disruptive business model that can be experimented with?
- How can you achieve a competitive advantage that your competitors can’t easily replicate?
If your analysis reveals that the initial value proposition is facing certain risks, your recommendations may need to suggest a pivot on the targeted customer segment or the specific problem
Your future customers need to want to choose your solution over any other because
a) it’s significantly more efficient than what’s currently out there,
b) it solves a pain point they didn’t know they had, and/or
c) it creates an undeniable desire where none existed before
I. On Prototyping
As we prepare to prototype, we’re finally juggling all four of the tenets at the same time. Don’t burn your time, money, or efforts on a product that has not been tested and validated with target customers
These are the critical questions that we need our prototype to answer:
- Does the solution solve the problem or major pain points that the target customer expressed?
- Does the target customer find the key features valuable?
- Would the target customer pay for the product or use it in a way that can be monetized?
The answers to questions 1 and 2 help us validate our value proposition. The answer to question 3 will help us validate our business model
To keep the long story long, this line from the book has resonated well with me. Sometimes, people have fixed ideas, and no amount of research will change their minds. <Then ask yourself> Will I help this person make their product regardless of the research, or do I walk away?
Tough words, how many of us have the courage to walk the talk?! If you don’t get this part right – costs will have to be borne by the team, company and often careers of the people involved whether or not they realise it at that point. In short, don’t solve wrong problems for your own good!
PS: Pop Quiz for UX Geeks!
Q. Do you know the difference between concierge, Wizard of Oz and mechanical turk?
A. These are the techniques for conducting value proposition experiments!
- Unlike concierge, customers don’t know that a human is in the loop in case of Wizard of Oz
- When someone says they are mechanical-turking a product, it typically means they are building a frontend with a human-powered backend to manually simulate a complex digital product. It’s like a crowdsourced version of Wizard of Oz