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UX maturity model
- Some time ago now, Jakob Nielsen developed an eight-point scale that's really useful for working out the state of user experience acceptance on a team or in an organization. A company at the first level of the scale treats the users with contempt, seeing them just as a source of revenue and doing the least possible work to ensure that customers don't leave.At the second level, people on the development team work on intuition to decide what's best for users. You might hear the term usability or user experience used in marketing material, but nobody's actually tasked with ensuring the product has a good or even consistent experience.
At level three, some people in the organization are trying to get true data. But these people still probably wouldn't consider user experience to be their primary job. At level four, user experience work is planned for and has a budget, but tends to occur late in the product cycle, where it can't have sufficient impact. At level five, user experience has a central budget, rather than just portions of individual team's allowances and probably has an official group with a manager, who has some power in the organization.
Team members work together to start standardizing methodologies but their work is stilltypically too little, too late. At level six, user experience activities are an accepted part of the development process. Large projects get upfront help with product definition and the quality of the user experience is measured. Level seven organizations have moved their user experience focus to the planning stage, where it can have most impact. Products have quantifiable tracked and reported measures of usability and failure to achieve user experience goals can stop progress.
There are probably design-related people in executive positions too. At level eight, user experience work drives decisions about which projects should be undertaken, not just how to undertake projects. User experience extends beyond the interface to all aspects of the business. Stop and think for a second. Where is your organization on this scale? Be honest with yourself. Just because some teams might have embraced user experience, where is the organization as a whole? I make the assumption that you want to improve the acceptance of user experience in your organization.
Now, here's the bad news. You can't just decide that you'll become a level eight organization next week. It doesn't work that way. Skipping a level will mean too much change, too quickly. People in the organization have inertia. They need to adjust to each set of new concepts in turn. Jakob Nielsen uses a term from diving to explain this. If you try to ascend too fast, the organization will get the bends and new ideas are expelled as bubbles rather than absorbed.
The organization might need several years at each level in order to acclimate before they move up. The best way to accelerate change is to plan ahead for the next level as soon as you progress. Cultivate champions inside the organization and move them ahead. At any one time, different teams within the company will be at different levels. It's pretty safe to ignore level one and level two teams, 'cause they'll eventually die out. Fighting with less mature teams is unlikely to achieve the type of results you need and will take twice the effort of working with a more mature team.
Don't let them drag you down. Give level three and four teams all the help you can, getting involved as early in the process as possible and using their own data and budget justifications. You'll need to show high return on investment for getting user experience involved and this takes time. Level five is about company-wide strategy. So make sure you've thought hard about the processes you want to see adopted company-wide and the types of metrics you want to see upper management using to track user experience.
At level six, each major project will have user experience involvement at most steps. And each minor project will have at least a minimum user experience review process. What staffing and other resources will you need to make that happen? How will you communicate this through the organization? Level seven is about integrated user-centered design with strong quantitative measures of user experience quality and a focus on early, frequent user research. That user research determines what projects should be built and how they should be created.
To succeed at this level, you need to have one or more voices at the executive level who can assure that the organization understands the value of user experience. And I guess the best thing to say about reaching level eight is that you'll know when you get there. At this point in time, there are very few truly user-driven organizations. It might take you a while, but there's no harm in planning for that time right now. #OpenToWork #hireme #jobsearch #jobseeker