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Treatments such as leeches and medicinal chocolate fill the history of medicine. Before microscopes and CAT scans, superstitions and hunches informed medical science.

As time has progressed, humanity's understanding of the human body has advanced in leaps and bounds. Along with that understanding, medical scientists have increased lifespans, eradicated previously incurable diseases, and created new medicines and treatments daily. As our model for understanding the human body has become more accurate, medical science has gone from incantations to examinations and from anecdotes to antidotes.

When bad information goes in, bad results come out, but a better model of understanding paves the way for better outcomes. This is true of medicine, and it's true of user experience. Building a user experience maturity model is essential for businesses because better models of understanding result in better outcomes for your business and your users.

Key Takeaways:

  • User experience is a top consideration for modern businesses.
  • Each organization should have its unique user experience maturity model.
  • While every company's needs differ, we can categorize user experience maturity into six stages.
  • Optimizely can help you take your digital experience management to the next level.

What is user experience maturity?

To understand how to build a user experience maturity model, you must first understand user experience maturity, and to understand user experience maturity, you must first understand user experience.

User experience encompasses many different aspects of your business, from customer service to digital experiences to advertising. User experience is exactly what it sounds like: how users interact with and experience your organization. However, a more useful way to think about user experience is how a user feels about your organization.

User experience maturity, then, is a way of conceptualizing how mature your organization's user experience focus is. Low user experience maturity looks like prioritizing function over experience and having little to no resources dedicated to improving user encounters. High user experience maturity involves a systemic focus and high prioritization of user interactions.

Building a user experience maturity model involves describing the stages of user experience maturity by defining criteria relevant to your organization. Mature user experience looks different at a mom-and-pop retail store than at a Fortune 500 tech firm, so building a user experience maturity model is specific to your unique organization and industry.


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Stages of the user experience maturity model

Even though user experience maturity will look different in each unique organization, some generalizations can help contextualize your user experience maturity journey.

Stage 1: Absent

In the absent stage, organizations have no deliberate focus on the user experience. This doesn't mean that users don't have experiences with the organization—even positive experiences—but that leadership is not allocating resources and effort to improve the user experience.

User experience management may be absent because leadership has decided not to prioritize user experience design, but frequently, it's because leadership isn't aware of its need. 

Stage 2: Limited

The limited stage of user experience maturity represents awareness of the need for user experience design but reluctance to create a systemic focus on it. Designers understand the need for user experience maturity in the limited stage, but the organization is still designing systems with developers in mind rather than users.

Many organizations languish in the limited stage because management doesn't understand the need for user experience focus. One way to mature your organization past the limited stage is to implement a high-visibility project demonstrating the value that user experience maturity can add to your business.

Stage 3: Emergent

The emergent stage is the adolescence of a user experience maturity model. In the emergent stage, leadership understands and values user experience maturity and has begun to dedicate resources to improving user experience but has not yet systematized user experience focus.

Organizations may begin to grow complacent in the emergent stage. To battle this complacency, the best way to mature past the emergent stage is to operationalize user experience maturity. Operationalization is the process of turning inconsistent practices into consistent systemic policies.


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Stage 4: Structured

In the structured stage, user experience maturity is a part of the bones of your organization. There is an operational focus on improving user experiences, but some departments or areas of your organization may have embraced user experience maturity more than others.

The biggest challenge of moving past the structured stage is leadership feeling like your organization has "arrived." If leadership believes your user experience design has fully matured, they won't prioritize maturing to the next stage.

Another challenge of the structured stage is that different areas of your organization have different levels of focus, leading to the belief that the status quo is good enough. This leads to complacency and stagnation as departments become attached to their current procedures.

Stage 5: Integrated

At the fifth stage of user experience maturity, leadership has fully integrated user experience into the organization. The integrated stage involves sustainable maturity and universal adoption of user experience as a priority.

One of the challenges of the integrated stage is that some decision-makers may not realize there is a sixth stage of maturity or may not think it's worth pursuing.

Stage 6: User Driven

In the integrated stage, the business uses user experience maturity to achieve organizational goals. This is not a bad thing! But it's also not the end of the journey. The sixth stage of user experience maturity is when organizations use UX for the users themselves and not just to achieve an external goal.

The final stage of user experience maturity involves rethinking measuring user experience based on business metrics and results in experiences and processes that are habitual, reproducible, and beloved.

How Optimizely can help

Building a user experience maturity model is important in evaluating where your organization is and how it can move to the next level of maturity. However, it's essential to recognize that the stages of this model are neither discrete nor linear. Non-discrete because these stages are subjective and flexible based on your organization's context, and non-linear because progress is never permanent.

Understanding user experience maturity and fighting for progress is only half the battle. Fighting against regression is the other half. Consistent forward progress requires focusing on your user's experiences, and in our increasingly digital world, digital experience management is the key factor that separates progress from regress.

Optimizely is a digital experience platform specializing in everything from media management to email campaigns to e-commerce. Taking control of your user experience maturity requires the right tools for the job, and as experts in digital experiences, Optimizely is a powerful ally in the journey towards UX maturity. 

If you're ready to take your digital experiences to the next level, get started today to see how Optimizely can help.