A UX strategist sticking Post-it notes onto a whiteboard

What Does a UX Strategist Actually Do?

Joseph Dimaculangan

Are you a UX designer thinking about moving into UX strategy? Perhaps you’re an aspiring UX enthusiast looking to learn about all the different UX-related career paths available to you. Well, you’ve come to the right place! 

These days, there are many job titles on the market which start with UX. Aspiring designers and seasoned professionals alike will often find themselves looking at a job ad and thinking, “What does that job title even mean? What kind of tasks would I be performing, and what skills do I need in order to qualify for the role? Is my current profession relevant? Am I a designer, researcher, consultant, or strategist?”

Out of the many job titles in the field of UX, this article will focus on the UX strategist. We’ll explore what a UX strategist actually does on a day-to-day basis, and consider some of the key skills you’ll need if you’re interested in becoming a UX strategist. By the end of this post, you should have a much clearer idea of what a career in UX strategy might entail.

We’ve divided our guide as follows:

  1. A quick refresh: What does a UX designer actually do?
  2. What is UX strategy, and what’s the difference between a UX designer and a UX strategist?
  3. What are the typical tasks and processes of a UX strategist?
  4. What skills are needed to become a UX strategist?
  5. Key takeaways and further reading

So, what does a UX strategist actually do? Let’s find out.

1. What does  a UX designer actually do?

Since UX strategy comes under the broader umbrella of UX design—and most newcomers to the field will seek an entry level position as a UX designer—let’s quickly define what a general UX design role entails. A UX designer is responsible for concepting and creating a usable and intuitive experience for a user who is using their product, or any web, mobile, or wearable application which can be interacted with through talking, tapping, touching and sliding across screens.

However, we know that a UX designer’s duties can vary from company to company and sometimes even from project to project. Some designers focus on creating stunning UI elements and are responsible for creating a style guide and the overall visual tone of the product. Others are more involved with user testing to observe user behavior. Some designers focus on presenting and interacting with stakeholders in order to empathize on a potential problem. In some companies, UX designers perform all of these duties.

Most companies and clients hire junior designers and developers because they’re either trying to solve a particular problem or they are looking for someone to identify the problem that needs to be solved. In fact, problem-solving is a huge part of any UX design role. While UX generalists tend to focus on solving problems for the end user, a UX strategist will also focus on problem-solving from a business perspective. More on that in the following sections! If you’d like to learn more about UX in general, check out this comprehensive introduction to user experience design, and this post on what a UX designer actually does.

2. What is UX strategy?

Now we know what a UX designer does, let’s move onto the specifics of UX strategy. We know that companies have their own set of business goals—from building up a recognizable brand to retaining customers and, of course, increasing revenue. A professional who is responsible for aligning these business goals with the end user’s (or customer’s) experience of a product or service is sometimes referred to as a UX strategist. So, UX strategy is the intersection of user-centered design and business strategy.

What’s the difference between UX design and UX strategy?

Although UX design and UX strategy do tend to overlap and are in many ways related, they aren’t the same thing. One of the main differences lies in the priorities of each professional: the UX designer is primarily concerned with the end user’s experience, while the UX strategist needs to make sure that the work of the UX design team is also fulfilling the needs of the business. UX strategy is the application of UX design to a broader business strategy. In essence, the UX strategist gives valuable input and suggestions to key business decisions with a user-centered mindset. They work with different stakeholders to determine what features to improve upon or add to the product—always with the goal of improving the business overall. You can learn more about the difference between a UX designer and a UX strategist in this video.

3. What are the typical tasks and processes of a UX strategist?

So what does a UX strategist actually do? As a UX strategist, you develop and maintain a “product-market fit” for the business. In other words, you make sure that there is actually a demand for the product or service you’re selling. A business must create a product good enough that at least everyday users want to buy it for the price they can afford. And, above all else, the UX strategist must make sure that the product development is aligned with the business strategy.

If you’re considering a career as a UX strategist, you’ll want to know what the job looks like on a day-to-day basis. Based on various (real) UX strategist job ads, here are some of the key tasks and responsibilities you might expect:

  • Meet with clients to discuss their business goals
  • Define audience needs
  • Conduct user research, competitive analysis, and stakeholder interviews
  • Balance business strategy with research insights in order to generate unique solutions for the clients’ digital needs
  • Synthesize discovery research into a strategic approach and create deliverables such as strategy briefs and presentation decks
  • Formulate concepts and requirements into a strategic roadmap and overall approach (including IA and UX artifacts such as site maps, user journey maps, process flows, user personas, wireframes, and low-fidelity prototypes in order to demonstrate and guide the project vision)
  • Present strategy briefs and decks to clients, partners, and colleagues
  • Lead projects from a UX perspective by taking a user-centered approach
  • Effectively prioritize projects, manage tasks, and communicate with the project management team, delivering projects on time and on budget
  • Collaborate with designers and developers to ensure the design and implementation of the product meets the vision of the original intention and business goals
  • Perform site or application audits and analyze data from various measurement tools in order to provide insights on user behavior and identify recommended design changes
  •  Identify potential future opportunities through recommended revisions, or improvements for later stages

4. What skills are needed to become a UX strategist?

Here are the general skills needed to become a UX strategist:

  • Soft skills: Being able to talk to a CEO to figure out what’s best for the company.
  • Negotiation: Good at finding workable compromises.
  • Research skills: Qualitative and quantitative user research to formulate consumer insights.
  • Design Thinking: Staying up to date with current UX methodologies, frameworks, and tools. 
  • Verbal skills: Skilled at presenting ideas with the ability to articulate strategic decisions to a variety of audiences
  • Intuitive: Having a good sense of balancing creative ideas with practical usability.

As a UX strategist, you should be able to look at designs and, for the most part, have a gut feeling about which one is the right one that will resonate with your users. You’ve probably seen enough design patterns to know what your users will be enamored with. UX strategists often attend workshops learning new ways to design and communicate with collaborators, as well as staying up-to-date by reading relevant books and articles.

Is UX strategy a skill? You bet! A strategist has to understand many disciplines like psychology, visual design, business, and technology to do their job well.

When considering a UX strategy, you need to list the points at which a user will come into contact with the brand. These include: email, websites, social media, apps and mobile devices. First and foremost, UX strategists are researchers, meaning they’re always asking questions and looking to end users to answer them for us.

In addition to research skills, the multidisciplinary nature of UX requires very strong communication skills. Other communication-heavy tasks like presenting results, leading workshops, conducting interviews, or selling an idea or a feature to stakeholders, are all key components of the UX strategist role.

Analytical skills are also essential as, in your role as UX strategist, you’ll often be dealing with data. Empathy and intuition aside, the hard numbers of Google Analytics will tell you certain truths about user behavior. Data says a lot when it comes to product development and marketing, and strategists need to study and be familiar with certain metrics before they present an idea or suggestion to companies and clients. You can argue that this skill is essential for most jobs, but in the field of UX strategy, it’s an absolute must. The ability to precisely plan and execute a project is a key part of the job!

Can UX designers become UX strategists?

UX designers who have already gained experience in the industry are in good stead for transitioning into a UX strategist role. At the same time, entry level designers can get their foot in the door by learning the frameworks and methodologies of Design Thinking, and learning how to apply them to complex business challenges. You can learn more about Design Thinking and how it’s used in a business setting in this guide. Even if you don’t necessarily want the UX strategist job title, a solid understanding of how design and business align is becoming increasingly important in today’s market. More so than ever before, the market we are designing for is rapidly evolving and changing. So, as designers, it’s important that we turn our attention towards the design of systems in addition to products. Inevitably, this involves an understanding of UX strategy.

5. Key takeaways and further reading

When a company is trying to design a new website or product, or undertaking a redesign, it’s important to widen the frame of reference. Taking a step back and considering the entirety of the user experience in a holistic way leads to better and more memorable experiences.

By looking at the customer journey as a whole and all the touchpoints along the way, we can create more robust, connected experiences. By focusing on the design of holistic experiences, we can delight users, ensuring they’re happy with the entire experience we have crafted. And, if we can align these user experiences with the business needs, it’s a win-win all round! This is the goal of a UX strategist.

Ultimately, UX strategy is UX design + business strategy. Getting a job as a UX strategist right away is difficult. If you’re a management consultant, study the principles of Design Thinking and learn the relevant design and prototyping tools. If you’re a UX designer, read about strategy and then ask questions about how a product can shape the market. If you’re interested in the holistic approach and research element of the UX process, then a UX strategist might be the perfect role for you!

Keen to learn more about the ever-changing UX design job market? Check out the following:

What You Should Do Now

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  4. Learn about our graduates, see their portfolio projects, and find out where they’re at now.

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Joseph Dimaculangan

Joseph Dimaculangan

UX Designer & Tutor

Joseph Dimaculangan is a UX & UI Tutor for CareerFoundry and freelance UX Designer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. When he’s not designing or writing, you can find him at a local coffee shop or traveling abroad.