Jan 28, 2020

Talk notes: A Roadmap for Maturing Design in the Enterprise

In this talk, JJ Kercher, Head of Customer Experience for Appfolio, gives a walkthrough of the UX maturity model from her journey.

The UX maturity model (read from bottom to up) in various stages of an organization:

Stage 1 - Unrecognized: UX is not essential and doesn't have focus.

Stage 2 - Interested: UX is essential but receives little funding.

Stage 3 - Invested: UX is crucial; formalized programs emerge.

Stage 4 - Committed: UX is critical, and executives are actively involved.

Stage 5 - Engaged: UX is one of the core tenets of the organization's strategy.

Stage 6 - Embedded: Organization now embeds UX in its fabric and is no longer discussed separately.

Stage 2: Interested

  • At this stage, typically, the design team (often just one person) is disproportionate to the number of engineers in the organization.
  • UX is positioned as an advisory or consultant role.
  • Design work is still tactical and has not gotten into a routine with recurring deliverables following processes whatsoever.
  • In this stage, invest in:


  • Be inclusive with the engineering team
  • Learn what drives them
  • Learn their language for effective communication and buy-in
  • Tell meaningful stories that are both relevant and in an understandable context

Design practice:

  • Focus heavily on Usability testing
  • Get into the practice of whiteboard brainstorming sessions
  • Use methods that are familiar to the engineering team (user flows and diagramming)

The design team:

  • Very likely the leader is an individual contributor at this stage
  • Ensure it doesn't break any existing working processes
  • Adopt and learn research skills

Stage 4: Committed

  • The team grows (or should grow) to fill the designer to engineer and product manager ratio gap
  • Designers get embedded on existing functional/ business teams
  • The need for UX specialization emerges -- generalized UX practice no longer can hold the fort
  • The design work still would be tactical and solution-oriented
  • At this stage, invest in:


  • Consistent design matters the most to the engineering team. Delivering that makes everybody's lives easier.
  • Work closely with product management; discuss how to prioritize design.
  • Focus on creating adjacent experiences such as help documentation

Design practice:

  • Create a space or forum for cross-functional design
  • Document processes, progress, and other auxiliary documents
  • Invest in design systems
  • Embrace tools to understand and share behavioral data like web, app analytics

The team:

  • As a leader, invest time in building relationships, coaching the team, hiring bright talent and user/ customer evangelism
  • Weekly standups
  • Formalize design reviews
  • Involve the team in critical decisions like hiring

Stage 6: Embedded

  • The product, by this stage, will be mature but would be growing, scaling, becoming complex
  • The team will be more structured with individuals having clear career paths
  • Reliable designer to product manager relationships will be established
  • The organization also witnesses design and research consultation throughout
  • More outside-in thinking across all customer/ user-facing roles
  • UX informs product and business about strategies
  • At this very mature stage, invest time in:


  • Work Outcomes over the output generated by peer teams
  • Work with the product management team to empower UX research as a method for needs vs. feature discovery
  • Outside in thinking across all customer-facing roles

Design practice:

  • Polish design systems (UI/ interactions/ copywriting)
  • UX folks should gradually get into action by becoming product owners
  • Bring in new methods to structurally solve problems (e.g., Design sprints)
  • Focus heavily on journey mapping

The design team:

  • Leadership should continue to focus on relationship building along with growing the leadership bench with lead and manager roles
  • Create career paths for all in the team
  • Ensure decision making remains flat in the team
  • Grow the business know-how within designers

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