With all this talk about startups and User Experience (UX) strategy, it’s easy to forget that there are many tech companies who are down that road further. As time moves on, the hope is to see more companies not only hit those milestones but grow with the ability to scale their design-led strategies.
With Twitter celebrating its 10th birthday this year, conversations about value for startups are becoming more serious. Plenty has been written on Lean UX principles and how to realistically apply them to your business/situation. All of these principles lead back to your vision. This vision should be re-calibrated to ensure the product serves the ever changing market landscape.
In the tech world, the reality is that sometimes an original vision or value proposition isn’t as valuable down the road for many reasons. For example: emerging technologies are now serving or skewing mental models. It’s also very common to launch as fast as possible, at the expense of too much planning ahead. This isn’t a bad thing, because it’s difficult to plan growth without getting your business off the ground and learning more first.
This doesn’t mean your business is doomed. It means you need to re-address how you’re creating value. Not just once, but all of the time. Sometimes, this means creating a separate product after “frankensteining” for a few years. Twitter and Instagram are top-of-mind examples. They released Periscope and Layouts apps for separate and specific experiences, yet were still core to their business. Sometimes, this means creating new experiences within your product, or even implementing some better technology or processes that keep you ahead of the game.
Maturity Stages As Milestones
Every business fits into some level of UX maturity. From non-existence to design-led business, you’re somewhere in there. These stages all have different needs from a strategy perspective, and can heavily drive the need to revisit.
These stages in UX maturity are also indicators of when to revisit. Scaling happens over a long time period, but constantly re-evaluating process keeps you aligned. If you know what you want to be, you can make a plan to get there. There is no right time to scale, but there are some milestones you can watch out for. I recommend using these stages as somewhat of a gauge for that. When in doubt, re-assess as a Lean company should.
Cut the fat
Maintenance takes effort. Feature bloat is a common symptom of strategy left unchecked. The way that many companies battle this is by building in feature roadmaps. This allows no feature to be left to die, or to create a less-than-par experience.
Another idea is to build maintenance sprints into your process. These could be enhancing usability or nice-to-have features that may not have met priority in early releases, or simply testing hypotheses from your backlog for roadmap exercises.
Don’t focus so much on product features that you forget other business aspects either. Process can be always improved, and is at the heart of a lean organization.
Many scenarios may only be a possibility at higher levels of Maturity Stages, but there are simple ways to keep this mentality alive no matter where your business falls in its growth. Think about how you can lead by example, and implement pieces of the methodology you support in practice.
Changing culture is not as easy as presenting a case and receiving buy-in. In fact, that is actually one of the most risky ways to present change. Leading by example not only effectively proves your case in action while cutting risk, but it points out the challenges that may be digging into your business. In order to gain investment into cutting the fat, these maintenance checks need to be built into your ongoing process.
Often, business-as-usual means that many don’t realize anything needs to be fixed. Even more often, nobody realizes that they are about to be out-innovated until it’s too late. Even positive growth is a reason to keep pushing forward.