6 Steps to Improve Your Company's UX Maturity Model

Tobi Moyela


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88% of online shoppers won’t return to a website after a bad user experience. Numbers like this are why experienced UX designers focus on building websites and apps that are as user-centric as possible. When a website or app is user-centric at every level, the creator has achieved the highest level of UX maturity. How do you determine your UX maturity as a SaaS company? You use a UX maturity model.

What is the UX maturity model?

A UX (user experience) maturity model is a framework for identifying how well a company designs and delivers quality user experiences to customers. With the framework, you can assess your UX maturity and pinpoint aspects of your user experience delivery you can improve to satisfy users more effectively.

A company that has reached peak UX maturity delivers only fully user-centric products. Also, such companies have well-defined and repeatable UX processes and effective metrics for measuring user satisfaction. Lastly, these companies continuously perform UX research and collect user feedback to find new ways to improve customer experience.

In summary, using the UX maturity model to continuously improve design maturity will better position a company to deliver quality user experiences. Consistently delivering a quality UX will ensure better user satisfaction, sales, and business growth. In fact, 86% of people are willing to pay more for a better user experience, and 74% of businesses believe quality UX is vital for increasing sales.

Jakob Nielsen built one of the first UX maturity models in 2006. His model listed eight levels of UX maturity, and each stage explained how well a company practiced and prioritized user experience. The companies at the lowest stage performed zero user research. On the other hand, the most mature companies offered the best user experience with 100% user-centric products and processes.

The stages of the UX maturity model

Over the years, others have created variants of Nielsen’s maturity model. Below is our version of the UX maturity model, which better encapsulates a modern organization’s transition from zero to a fully user-focused design process and mindset:

The stages of the UX maturity model

Stage 1: Inception

Companies in the inception stage have no idea about user experience and consider it unnecessary. The lack of a user-focused mindset leads to the company not prioritizing customer experience or usability throughout its product development process.

It is rare to find tech or software companies stuck at this level of maturity but not impossible. Tech companies in the inception stage fail to progress because they lack the methods, resources, or tools to deliver a good customer experience. However, organizations can progress from this stage by learning more about UX and how to incorporate it into design and development processes.

Stage 2: Awareness

Companies in the awareness stage know about UX principles and practices but don't completely understand them. The limited knowledge leads to an inability to create a practical UX strategy or operate with a fully user-centric mindset. Such companies have trouble consistently delivering a user experience that fully satisfies customers.

Progressing past this stage requires training design and product teams to understand UX and how to work with a user-centric approach. The training will help the team prioritize and apply relevant UX principles during product design and development.

Stage 3: Limited Adoption

Companies in this stage are aware of UX but lack the framework, budget, or willingness to adopt UX principles fully. For example, many companies in this stage adopt UX principles because a stakeholder recommended it or the law or their industry mandated it. Such companies only partially incorporate UX principles into their processes, leading to delivering an inconsistent and erratic user experience.

Progressing from this stage will only happen after the entire company officially recognizes the value and necessity of becoming user-focused. The organization must also equip development teams to focus on user experience and celebrate UX-related wins. Celebrating UX-related wins will help facilitate adoption by showing employees it is a desirable outcome that more of them should work toward.

Stage 4: Structured

Structured companies recognize and appreciate the value of prioritizing user experience. Such companies have established a team that ensures UX compliance across the organization, and the company leaders are on board.

Such companies also have a user-focused design process and frequently conduct user research to learn new ways to meet user needs. Besides the product development team, other departments, such as marketing and sales teams, apply customer-first principles to doing their work. Most companies do not progress beyond the structured stage because they feel doing more is unnecessary.

Stage 5: Integrated

Fully integrated companies have a comprehensive UX strategy that ensures user experience pervades everything the organization does. Most teams within the company perform at least one UX-related task and have the resources to complete such tasks efficiently.

Unlike the other stages, every employee and leader in an integrated company fully understands the pros of user-centered design. The entire organization is so user-centric that everything it does is aimed at ensuring optimal user satisfaction. Also, the team frequently engages in UX research to find new and better ways to keep users happy.

How to improve your company's position on the UX maturity model

Now that you understand the UX maturity model, let’s look at how you can raise your company to your preferred level of UX maturity:

How to improve your company's position on the UX maturity model

Step 1. Identify where your company is on the model

You cannot work on progressing to a new stage on the UX maturity model if you do not know your current stage. Identify your current level on the UX maturity model with these steps:

  • Research the UX maturity model: Study the different levels of the UX maturity model to understand the characteristics of companies on each level. Understanding what a company on each level looks like will simplify recognizing your UX maturity level.

  • Assess your current UX practices: Evaluate your company's current UX practices to identify how user-centric your organization is. Assessing your UX practices may involve identifying how much emphasis you place on UX during product development. You can also check if you perform user research and if you test products to verify usability.

  • Compare your findings to the UX maturity model: After assessing your current UX practices, list the insights from your research and compare them to the different UX maturity levels. The level that best matches the insights from your research is likely your current UX maturity stage.

Step 2. Research why your company is at that stage

After identifying your current stage, your next move should be understanding why you are at that UX maturity level. Follow these steps to evaluate your company and understand why you have not progressed beyond your current UX maturity stage:

  • Review current UX practices: Your company is likely at its current UX maturity stage because of its UX practices. Review your current UX practices to identify what you are doing and not doing. For instance, check your user research methods, design decision-making process, and product testing and validation methods. Your evaluation will provide insights into what works and what’s holding you back from being a more user-centric organization.

  • Conduct user research: Research your users to understand their needs and preferences. A truly user-centric company understands customer preferences and tailors products or services to match those preferences. Your user research will reveal which areas your product fails to satisfy user needs and expectations.

  • Assess organizational culture: Does your organizational culture fully embrace a user-first mindset? If it does not, you will have trouble going beyond your current UX maturity stage, regardless of how user-focused your product is. Assess your organizational culture by evaluating how you prioritize UX and who is responsible for UX. Your assessment will also reveal if your company has any cultural barriers hindering improving UX practices.

Once you understand why your company is at its current UX maturity stage, you can develop a plan to improve and progress to the next stage. Bottom of Form

Step 3. Bring together a team of internal champions to advocate for better UX

Bring together a team of internal champions to advocate for better UX

Form a team of company leaders and influential stakeholders who can spearhead a drive to make your organization more user-focused. You can create such a team to improve your UX maturity by:

  • Identifying potential champions: Find individuals within your organization who are passionate about user experience (UX) and already advocating for it. It’s important that these champions include company leaders who can give your movement credibility. However, do not overlook designers, product managers, developers, and customer-facing employees who understand the value of user experience.

  • Setting clear goals: Clearly state your purpose for creating the team and what you want to achieve. Doing so will ensure that the team’s actions are always aligned with the stated goals. The goal may be improving product usability or creating a more customer-centric organizational culture.

  • Communicating benefits: Convince other company workers and stakeholders to buy into becoming more user-focused by explaining the benefits of good UX. Benefits to prioritize include better customer satisfaction, sales, and brand reputation.

  • Providing resources: Give your team access to user research and data, prototyping and testing tools, and training on UX best practices. Providing your team with these resources will facilitate achieving your stated goals. Also, don’t neglect to give your team the authority and autonomy to make design decisions and challenge product or profit-focused processes.

By following these steps, you can create a team of internal champions who are passionate about improving user experience. The more focused, aligned, and passionate your team is, the more driven they will be to create a user-focused organization.

Step 4. Foster a culture of user-centered design

You and your team of UX champions should work on creating an organizational culture focused on putting customers first. A user-centric organizational culture will ensure that every company process, action, and decision considers customer needs and expectations. It will also ensure that every employee operates within a framework that prioritizes user experience.

Start at the top by helping your company’s leadership buy into user-centered design practices. When top-level executives prioritize customer experience, getting everyone else in the organization to follow suit is easier. Next, educate and train employees to understand and incorporate user-centered design principles into their tasks. You can train employees through interactive workshops and training sessions.

Lastly, foster a collaborative work environment that encourages teams to work together and share insights regarding customer needs and preferences. Such a work environment will ensure the integration of user-centered design principles into every project.

Building an organizational culture that values and prioritizes UX simplifies creating a work environment where employees always put customers first. If all your departments operate with such a mindset, it will help move you up the UX maturity model.

Step 5. Conduct user research

User research should be a priority because user feedback and insights are essential for creating successful user-centered designs. Encourage all teams to conduct user research regularly and apply the insights to fulfill their functions. Teams should also share user insights with teammates across the organization to help others learn and improve.

Your company’s user research should cover understanding user needs, preferences, and behaviors. You can use various qualitative and quantitative research methods, such as surveys and interviews, to gain the insights you need. Insights from the research will facilitate making the best data-driven product design and development decisions. Customer-facing staff can also use the insights to improve interactions with clients.

Step 6. Implement UX design standards

Provide clearly defined design standards and guidelines that every organization member can follow. Also, establish clear processes and procedures for adhering to the provided standards and guidelines.

Putting such UX standards in place will ensure consistency among your workers and coherence across products. It will also ensure that everyone on your team understands their roles and responsibilities in the UX design process.

Your organization’s design standards and processes should cover everything from UX design and research to customer interactions. You must frequently revise these standards and processes to ensure they remain effective, relevant, and up to industry standards.

Would you like an expert to help your company move up on the UX maturity model? Talk to DevSquad today. We have years of experience helping SaaS companies develop user-centric products that match business goals. Click here to learn more about how we can help your SaaS company improve.

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