One key to getting out in front of your competition is implementing an effective user experience strategy built on a clear structure of goals, vision, strategy and tactics aligned with your overall business.

One business differentiator to stay ahead of your competition is implementing an effective user experience (UX) strategy. Good user experience can be elusive if it’s not built on a clear structure of goals, vision, strategy and tactics. The following 10 tips unpack these concepts and give you a solid foundational approach to creating the user experience that’s right for your business and customers.

1. Align UX With Your Business Goals

The goals you have for your business provide the structure for your UX strategy; without them, your user experience would be directionless. Your company should have a direction and vision for where it’s headed, as well as short-term milestones and objectives. Based on a benchmarking process, you should also have tactics or plans to stay abreast of your competitors. When imbedded correctly, your UX strategy will advance your business both in the short-term and long-term.

UX designers are experienced at understanding user behaviours and needs. You can collaborate with them to present a new UX strategy to the C-suite by thinking of your entire UX design as the new product, with the executives as key stakeholders.

2. Understand Your Users

This may sound obvious since UX is focused on users, but too often experience teams lack essential psychological and behavioral insight into their target audience. Instead, designers may get distracted by the engineering perspective or stakeholder input and not venture beyond their own preferences and opinions.

All designers need to know who they are designing for. UX design teams must have a clear picture of a company’s customers. They need to work with the marketing and business teams to understand the demographic and unique pain points of current and future customers. Will the audience be other businesses or private consumers? What are they looking for when they interact with your company? Will they make a one-time purchase or establish an ongoing relationship with your company? Many other such questions should be asked and answered.

3. Focus on Individual User Interfaces

Once you know who your users are, you can focus on all the channels through which you reach them. These user interfaces, or points of contact, may be initiated from either side and may include phone conversations (with live or automated responses), chat, email, postal mail, in-person interactions with sales, technical or customer service staff, texting, social media interactions and payment procedures. Your company’s unique mix of these various channels defines the context in which you interact with the larger world. What makes your company successful? How will each individual touch point or interface express the unique qualities of your brand?

4. Articulate Your UX Vision

Articulating your vision refers to providing clear communication. Everyone across your organization should understand what kinds of innovations are being envisioned. The context of your user interfaces and your business goals contribute to the vision that you develop for your user experience. Before you can speak about specific design details, you need an overall sense of what you’d like the experience to deliver. For example, do you need to make sure your customer experience is stable and consistent across many different channels? Or are you looking to provide more rapid access to information over just one or two channels?

Regardless of whether your innovations revolve around one product or incorporate a whole suite of services, products and touch points, your experience team needs to include feedback from across your organization. Marketers will have a prominent seat at the table, as well as engineers, developers, and designers. Perhaps your legal team needs to be involved. Furthermore, when the innovations you’re introducing are internal to company operations, you need buy-in from front-line workers as well as from management. What do your team members and colleagues want to see your UX design address? Answering these questions organically brings you to consider the next point.

5. Identify Resources and Constraints

A vision for what you want your UX to deliver is necessary but not sufficient as you draft your plan. You also have to identify the stakeholders you’ll be working with. Who needs to approve new investments, and who will actually be integrating the new technology? Which innovations have higher priorities, and who is responsible for setting those priorities? What are the deadlines and budgetary limitations? Can you come in with one substantial all-at-once digital transformation, or will you be implementing the parts of your strategy in a step-by-step manner? Remember, your strategy should map out both the “what” and the “how” for your UX innovations. Documentation is key: creating a written trail for your UX design allows you to maintain a useful reference point for prioritizing and updating.

6. Develop Realistic Expectations

Get a group of software engineers together with marketers and other stakeholders, and you’re likely to end up with some pretty high-flying UX ideas. The nature of a rapidly evolving digital ecosystem is such that the farthest technological outposts are the ones that resonate well. It’s thrilling to envision the immersive digital future and harness it across all your brand touchpoints. While the early phases of creating the vision should be free of limitations, it’s important to integrate the various constraining factors so you keep your eventual strategy within a well-defined scope.

7. Respect Established Patterns

There’s a sweet spot between creativity and tradition. It may seem odd to use the word “tradition” when discussing a way of doing things that may have only become technologically possible in the past few years, but the word is definitely apropos. Your customers have come to expect their technology to behave in certain ways: They look for a “back” arrow in the upper right or left corner, for example, and they expect to have a “submit” or “buy now” button after entering payment information. As technology moves forward, patterns inevitably change, and creative designers help drive the evolution. The art of cutting-edge UX design is making the right judgment about when to introduce disruptions of established patterns and when to follow them. A/B testing is an effective way to check whether your design has stepped too far out into the blue.

8. Approach UX Holistically

There’s a transformation that happens when all the elements of UX are integrated with one another. When users interact with your company, they end up with an overall holistic impression; they may not recall the page-by-page, screen-by-screen interactions they had. Instead, they simply know whether or not their experience felt satisfying and if they were able to find what they were looking for. A rich, delightful UX results from the synthesis of a whole series of decisions around product, brand, design and development. These decisions should be informed by both stakeholders and users.

9. Measure Your Success

The metrics you’ll use to measure the effectiveness of your UX arise from what you originally set out to accomplish. They should revolve around user interfaces, usability, interactions and the overall experience. The metrics should originate within your company’s benchmarking process so you’re not only comparing your current state of affairs with your own previous track record, but also with your direct competitors, your industry, and the best in class. It’s a bit more difficult to measure the effects of your UX changes on the quarterly fortunes of your business, but you may find trends related to changing views of your brand.

10. Recognize That UX Is a Process

Users interact with your digital touch points on a daily basis, and your UX strategy has to keep pace with their expectations. The finest possible user experience from 10 years ago would be hopelessly inadequate today; even five or three years ago, UX was in a decidedly different place.

As these 10 tips demonstrate, developing a best-in-class user experience requires you to draw on a subtle mix of human and technical skills. Increasing your peak performance doesn’t have to cost a fortune. All of the above tactics are pretty inexpensive and highly effective. Providing a superior user experience with the consumer top of mind will ensure better engagement with the product or brand from the end user.