Strategic User Experience: Leisa Reichelt

Strategic User Experience: Leisa Reichelt

Reichelt opened her presentation by emphasising that design and user experience are not superficial acts. You cannot rescue an organisation or product that lacks knowledge of what their user needs just by having a good UX team. Good UX comes right from the heart of the organisation.

She went on to link UX to business strategy more closely, paraphrasing Peter Drucker, who wrote about business strategy in the 1960s in a way that sounds suspiciously like UX thinking today. Reichelt highlighted the point that business is not about making money. Business is about creating a customer. The feedback from this process that tells you that you are being successful at creating a customer is that you will make a good profit. Essentially, business strategy is UX strategy.

Leisa Reichelt speaking at UX Bristol

To put this in content, Reichelt described some of the pressures that business people are now facing that prevent them from thinking in this way. She noted that business has experienced a dramatic refocus on short-termism which means that delivering anything substantial – particularly strategic change – is a big deal, which will not do great things to the quarterly report. We have to be empathetic to these pressures when we approach business people to suggest change.

Reichelt went on to provide a business model which puts user experience at the very core. This consisted of four key stages:

1. Mission (the business purpose)
2. Business Strategy (including experience strategy and target audience!)
3. Customer Experience Strategy
4. Tactical Execution

She noted that part of the problem is that experience strategy often gets used only within the design team, but it should be used at the very top of the organisation.

In discussing this model, Reichelt highlighted other issues, including the key problem that many businesses don’t want to define their target audience at all; they want to sell their product to the entire world!

She described the power of customer experience maps as a way to help everyone in the organisation to understand what the user’s experience is like at every point of contact with the business (their touch points). This helps to dissolve organisational silos and provides the business people with a clear picture of the business (including where money comes in and where money goes out) which they can own, but is built around the customer experience.

One of the techniques Reichelt listed as an element of Customer Experience Strategy was the idea of the persona. There were mixed views about the value of this within the room, but she advocated that the default position for all designers should be to use personas, unless there is a good reason not to. They help people make good decisions based on what makes sense for the customer. Personas allow you to provide a framework based on who your customer actually is – getting rid of the subjectivity and bringing more structure into the way decisions are made. They can also help to humanise your user story when developing in an agile framework.

To sum this up, Reichelt suggested a clear elevator pitch sentence structure, as proposed by Marty Neumeier:

“Our brand is the …… that …… ”

You can then compare your suggestions to this. Does your new feature fit with it? Does your strategy fit with it? The minute you have your team coming back and quoting your personas and design principles at you, you know you’re getting ahead.

Delegates working at UX Bristol

The group then undertook a wireframing exercise using a strategic collaborative wireframe outline. They were challenged to produce a product page for an online grocery store, who’s value proposition is that they are the only grocery store that helps you to eat more healthily. The specific product in question was tofu. Their objective was to sell groceries, to build a relationship with the customer and differentiate the store from other brands.

Participants had to go through the following six step process:

  • Individually brainstorm content/functional elements that they might find on this product page
  • Compare notes, group duplicates
  • Individually use sticky dots to place votes for the most important elements
  • Sort the items into order and remove any that did not receive a vote
  • Collaboratively compare items one to one and create a hierarchical list of prioritised elements
  • Collaboratively sketch a wireframe of the resulting elements.

The proof of this method is not necessarily how beautiful the wireframe looks, but that in the space of 10 minutes you have an agreed design. If everyone who could throw a spanner in the works is involved in this process, they get their ideas heard and understand how their idea is evaluated and why it might be disregarded.

This method can help facilitate difficult decisions with stakeholders across the business and generate a shared understanding. However, she noted that whilst it is simple, it is not easy. The concepts are not mind bending – they are based on business strategy that has been around since the 60s. Whilst, everyone uses Apple as a role model, how many actually run their business in this way? She concluded by emphasising that this can require significant cultural change, which can put you at risk of getting fired.


  1. I asked the Watershed sound engineer to send me a sound file of this excellent talk and gave him my email address. Have the sound files been processed?

    In the spirit of knowledge sharing I wrote down (and tested!) some URL’s used in her presentation (although the visualised model of positioning design as only about ‘expression’ completely ignores Design Thinking) (a post by JARED M. SPOOL)

    Facilitation at a Glance!

    Leisa also introduced the value proposition thinking of @guykawasaki with his “Mantras Versus Missions”

    Personally, I was enthusiastic that @leisa reminded the audience that Service Design is the holistic understanding of user experience, “customer journey mapping” the holistic experience across all channels of communication and how touchpoints encountered on the journey (including the web/mobile web ‘channels’ and corresponding UX of the interface behaviour).
    I can’t wait to read her forthcoming book ‘A Practical Guide to Strategic User Experience’

    As @servicejunkie I tweet about #servicedesign


  1. The user experience iceberg « EBI Interfaces - [...] architecture” of pages; something along the lines of what Leisa Reichelt has dubbed “strategic wireframing“. We hope to produce ...

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