The Commoditization of UX and the Rise of Design Strategy

The real value comes from the design strategy

The Commoditization of UX and the Rise of Design Strategy

Original published on February 21, 2022 in UX Collective

Some years ago the demand for UX designers was so great that the market couldn’t seem to hire fast enough. After all,

Products with a purely engineering-focus have a hard time attracting and retaining customers.

We saw UX Bootcamps like General Assembly gain tremendous popularity, offering to turn their students into fully-fledged, UX designers in just a few weeks.

An example from the promotional material of one UX bootcamp

The powerful tech industry had a necessity and the market met the requirement by training a new army of qualified labor.

The need for strategic designers

We’ve now reached a point in which UX designers are a fundamental role in product development teams.

Not only UX design is commonplace in most successful tech companies but its value is well understood by management. And that’s a great thing.

As a result, the challenges companies now face are higher level.

We no longer lack UX designers. We now need product and business-oriented designers. Designers who get the big picture and question assumptions from handed-down assignments from their managers.

It’s not enough for the designer to be the voice of the user. It’s also essential that they find the meeting point between the user and business value.

In other words, we need designers who can think strategically about the product and how each feature they work on contributes to the long-term vision.

Design strategy is a meeting point between what’s valuable for customers, and what’s profitable for businesses.

Lack of strategy can kill a product over the long term

When a product lacks a clear vision, it’s easy for everyone working on it to get distracted with short-term wins.

One example of lack of solid vision, is taking customer requests as gospel, without thinking in terms of how each feature will impact the experience down the line.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s vital for companies to listen to their customers. What’s dangerous is not prioritizing feature based on what the product stands for.

Featuritis or creeping featurism is the tendency for the number of features in a product (usually software product) to rise with each release of the product.

What may have been a cohesive and consistent design in the early versions may end up as a patchwork of added features. — Interaction Design Foundation

The remedy against featuritis is a good strategy

Good product direction is making sure the level of complexity is kept at bay.

A good design strategy allows companies to filter out unnecessary product initiatives that add bloat and kill mature products.

If you’ve been doing UX for a while, and want to take the next step, here are some resources to learn more about Design Strategy:

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