UX Strategists: Your complete guide to the UX role

UX design is still new to many companies. Therefore, it’s only natural that the profession is constantly developing. One of the outcomes of this process is the abundance of UX roles. You might have heard of UX architects, UX consultants, UX managers, UX engineers, etc. Well, in this article, we’ll dissect another role, that of the UX strategist, in a super straightforward way.

What is a UX strategist?

Definition:

UX strategist is a senior-level product role, responsible for the continuous development of a comprehensive product strategy that aligns business objectives and user requirements.

Elaboration:

UX strategists synthesize data, research findings, product direction, and business objectives into a clear vision influencing all design decisions. This balancing act ensures a consistent user experience that benefits both the users and the business.

UX strategists must have a clear understanding of the product’s architecture, as well as its past, present, and future. This allows them to devise clear and time-efficient plans proactively, avoiding past mistakes and focusing on the product’s future.

Depending on the size of the company, their scope might reach beyond standalone products, considering the overall user journey across the company’s offerings.

3 Important facts about the role

1. It’s a role for larger companies

UX strategist is a role usually reserved for larger companies with multiple design teams, complicated products, or multiple products. In such environments, UX strategists are necessary to keep everything aligned, and heading in the right direction. At smaller companies and startups, it’s the UX designers and the PM who are collectively responsible for the tasks that UX strategists do.

2. It’s a senior role

At the time of researching this article, most UX strategist job posts were asking for 4-5 years of experience in a product role. If you read the responsibilities, you’ll realize that this is pretty much understandable. Overseeing the strategy and direction of large-scale design teams is a hard task, that requires skills that develop through years. More on this in the third fact.

3. It requires an interdisciplinary skillset

Coming from the second fact, the role of UX strategists requires a diverse skill set, reaching beyond design expertise. It requires skills in research, analytics, communication, and project management. UX strategists need to identify and count with technical constraints, and business goals, as well as provide experience-based feedback and mentorship.

What do companies expect from UX strategists?

Now let’s see what actual companies expect from their UX strategists! To answer this question, we compiled a list of responsibilities from 27 US-based job posts. This left us with a total of 432 items. We fed all these to AI to merge and remove all duplicates, leaving us with 36 items. Below, you can find all of them categorized based on a shared theme:

1. Research, analysis, and insights:

  1. Map end-user needs through qualitative and quantitative research methods.
  2. Define complex problems using research data.
  3. Enumerate UX features of competitors’ products.
  4. Identify and prioritize research questions with product leadership.
  5. Uncover business opportunities and user benefits through data.
  6. Help advance UX research practice by proposing improvements.

 2. Strategy, vision, and planning:

  1. Establish a UX vision for digital products.
  2. Propose enhancements for elevated customer experiences.
  3. Assist in creating roadmaps with prioritization for new features.
  4. Translate business problems to human-centered problems.
  5. Lead brainstorming sessions and ideation workshops.

6. Storytelling and presentation:

  1. Translate complex ideas into understandable concepts.
  2. Establish and promote design guidelines, best practices, and standards.
  3. Tell the story of the work and advocate for the UX point of view.
  4. Translate insights into actionable concepts and present to stakeholders.
  5. Communicate research insights creatively to colleagues.

2. Collaboration:

  1. Collaborate with clients for informed customer experience decisions.
  2. Collaborate with UX researchers and product managers for insights.
  3. Develop a professional network to foster collaboration.
  4. Work with product managers to influence product strategy and roadmaps.
  5. Work with the engineering team to ensure the implementation of designs.

4. Design and development:

  1. Convert ideas into tangible and actionable points for design and development.
  2. Utilize human-centered design methods and storytelling techniques.
  3. Design and maintain user-centered artifacts based on research.
  4. Focus on internal product definition and shaping.
  5. Advocate for the user’s perspective with product teams.
  6. Bridge the gap between business goals and end-user goals.
  7. Ensure product success with intuitive, delightful user interfaces.
  8. Own and influence the data-driven design of tools.

5. Mentorship and leadership:

  1. Mentor junior UX strategists.
  2. Act as the user expert in design thinking processes.
  3. Evangelize and evolve UX practice, culture, and craft.
  4. Lead design meetings and participate in reviews and direction.
  5. Develop an understanding of the business context and advocate for users.
  6. Teach and mentor in various research activities.
  7. Stay aware of industry trends for innovative product visions.

Differentiating the role of UX strategist

The role of UX strategists overlaps with other product roles, which is very common in this field. Also, most companies have their own interpretation of UX roles and their responsibilities. So, below we’ll focus on the most obvious differences between UX strategists, product managers, and UX designers.

1. Product manager vs. UX strategist

UX strategists contribute to refining the UX throughout the entire user journey, while product managers navigate the entire product lifecycle. This means that product managers are responsible for the overall success of the product. Their role encompasses decision-making in various fields (development, marketing, UI, and UX design), aligning roadmaps and coordinating cross-functional teams, and ensuring that the product meets market demands and business goals.

2. UX designers vs. UX strategists

While UX designers focus on designing attractive and user-friendly interfaces, UX strategists take a broader approach with little (to no actual) design responsibilities. UX strategists align user experiences with company objectives and work at a more strategic level, overseeing the entire user journey. They utilize interdisciplinary skills, including research, analytics, and collaboration, to formulate comprehensive strategies that extend beyond the design. Their job is to make sure that the entire user journey offers a holistic and delightful user experience.

How to become a UX strategist?

1. Get the required education

A BA degree in UX design, human-computer interaction, psychology, or a related field is the minimum requirement for UX strategist roles.

2. Gain relevant experience

Get 3+ years of experience in UX design, preferably with a focus on user research and creating UX strategies and roadmaps.

3. Develop the relevant UX skillset

Become an expert on UX research, UX design, information architecture, and interaction design. Attend workshops, and participate in UX communities.

4. Develop strong communication and presentation skills

UX strategists need to communicate their ideas effectively to stakeholders and teams. So, practice your presentation skills and learn how to tell compelling stories about your work.

5. Work on your problem-solving and analytical skills

UX strategists need to identify and solve complex problems using data from various sources. So, practice your problem-solving skills and learn data analysis to drive informed design decisions.

6. Build your portfolio

Create a portfolio showcasing your best, most relevant UX work. Include case studies of projects you have worked on, highlighting research findings and data-driven design decisions.

You can create a competitive UX portfolio with UXfolio, using features developed for UXers, such as device mockups, guiding questions, and our project thumbnail generator.

How to build a UX strategist portfolio?

A UX strategist portfolio is not much different from a UX designer portfolio. A few things should be more while others less highlighted:

1. Research process and findings

Put research in the spotlight. Give an in-depth explanation of why you chose a particular methodology, how you prepared the research, and how you analyzed, interpreted, presented, and applied the findings. As you can see from our research above, these cover some of the most relevant skills a UX strategist needs.

2. Design decisions on a bigger scale

Presenting design decisions is important in both UX designer and UX strategist portfolios. However, in a UX strategist portfolio, you need to highlight how these decisions were influenced by and/or influential to the entirety of the user journey. You should also highlight what you considered before making those decisions, especially different methods, research findings, business objectives, and the rest of the product.

3. Collaboration skills

Include small sections highlighting collaboration. For example, you can highlight the design handover process, to showcase how you communicated design concepts to developers. You can also include a paragraph and visuals about presentations you made for the team or stakeholders. Anything that involves you working with or communicating to others is worth considering.

4. Storytelling

Leave out basic information and focus on telling a cohesive story about problem-solving. Storytelling doesn’t mean long paragraphs filled with way too much information. It’s about revealing how you found a solution to a problem using your skills, applying design thinking, navigating data, and collaborating with others. If you need help, try UXfolio’s text ideas and guiding questions, written and edited by seasoned UX experts.

5. Highlight your seniority

Since we’re talking about a senior role, you need to have more than 2-3 case studies in your portfolio. The way you present yourself and your work should also emphasize your experience: keep everything clean, organized, and focused. The UX strategist role is sometimes more UX-oriented than that of the UX designer. So make sure that your portfolio has great UX and no unnecessary, overdesigned fluff that distracts from what really matters.

You can build an impactful UX strategist portfolio with UXfolio

UXfolio is a portfolio-building tool aimed at UX specialists, from researchers to designers and even strategists. It differs from other website builders by providing a curated feature set that encourages a fast and easy building process that cultivates great storytelling, highlighting your impact on user experiences. Try UXfolio for free: start building!

UX career expert & creative @UXfolio. I've been participating in and writing about UX design for 4 years. In my free time, I read, listen to opera, and work out.

Hit me up at akos@blog.uxfol.io

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A typical mistake I see in UX portfolios is lack of content explaining their contribution to the effort, the images are only the final product and not the process to get there.

UX is very much about strategy and if the person is not showing how they got from A to B, they appear to be another UI trying to move into a UX role.

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