My freelance UX strategy in real-time [PART 2]

[Monday, April 16. 5:36 pm]

In part 1 of this post, I outlined my business purpose and goals. I called it a business strategy, because it sets the direction for my business and path to how I think I will get there.

But it doesn’t yet have a key component: the user. Who specifically are my clients? What do problems do they have, and why am I the one to solve them?

This will be the focus of today’s real-time post.

[UX vs. CX: a quick definition:

Many people, including me, use the terms User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) interchangeably. In general, if I’m building a strategy or a design for a specific website or an app, I’ll refer to the person using it as a “user”, and say UX in describing the related work. If the experience to be defined or designed is more of the full lifecycle of a person across multiple platforms, or on- and off-line channels, I’ll use “customer” and CX. Based on this rule, I’ll talk about my freelance design strategy in terms of customers (clients) and CX.]

Customer Personas

[5:42pm] One of the most important steps for a business, and equally for a freelancer is to define the ideal customer. I’ve been told this and read this in every resource on getting started freelancing that I can find.

I’ve struggled with this, as my experience has been very broad, from my own startup, to medium service businesses, to some of the largest corporations in the world. I think my skill set could fit in and deliver value for building a new digital product or optimizing a single feature in a huge ecosystem of products.

But, I have to start somewhere. I want to be realistic in who would need services that I plan to offer around my purpose of “bringing ideas to life”. So my customers are likely startups and small business, building their first product, or first version of a new product. Some ideas, based on what I’ve seen in the market so far:

  • Startups with 1–3 founders, looking to bring an early prototype or beta idea to a sellable first product
  • Service business that want to start attracting or servicing customers with a new app
  • Software businesses that want to bring a more UX-centred approach into their next version
  • Corporate innovation teams that want to research, build, and test new product ideas
  • Agencies that have these customers, that need help with delivering UX research, strategy, and design
  • UX students that want to take classes to learn my process and gain UX skills

[5:58 pm] From these potential customers, I’ll create of list of personas. These are individuals who are part of the organisations types above, who will be the ones deciding to hire me. They will be my focus sales and marketing efforts. (Later I may do the same for my day-to-day contacts for delivering my services.)

[6:12 pm] Ok, I’ve sketched my first persona, from the startup. Proof that you don’t have to be good at drawing to call yourself a designer.

CX Persona Sally Solopreneur, working at her stand-up desk

[6:33 pm] My second persona, from the service business:

CX Persona Micky Make-it-happen, driving to a client meeting

[6:45 pm] And my third, from the software company:

These three are my primary personas. They are who I want my website and related sales and marketing channels to speak to.

My secondary personas are the corporate innovation team leader and the UX director at a design agency. I won’t target these personas through sales and marketing, but they may come through networking, referrals, and case studies built by delivering results for my primary personas.

Bridging from personas to design

[6:51 pm] Now comes the fun part. Taking what we know about the personas and applying it to what we want to build. If you look back to my business strategy post, the last sketch has a few tactics that I want to design to market my business. The three key ones that involve design that I will focus on today are:

  • Website
  • Sales Materials
  • Email list (eDM + CRM)

So based on my tactics to achieve my business goals and the customer personas I’ve identified, I’ll frame a question that will influence my experience design.

How might I convince Sally Solopreneur that she should hire Auxo to help her build her first full-featured platform?

In design thinking methodology, starting with the phrase “how might we” can help to kick off brainstorming in a way that keeps the solution wide open.

[7:11 pm] The way that I think about this is another section within the personas, labeled as “Experience considerations”, either within each 1-page persona diagram or as a combined chart:

Experience consideration for my personas

Some of the questions to ask yourself to come up with the experience considerations:

  • What does this person do day-to-day? Where would my experience fit in with their priorities?
  • How might they feel while interacting with my experience? What is their emotional state going into it and what do I want it to be coming out of it?
  • What is the context (device, time of day, time of year, etc.)?
  • Who else is important to them? Do they need additional opinions or approvals at any stage?

User stories

[7:26 pm] User stories are a tool used in the agile development methodology and can be another helpful way to think about the user needs before starting on the solution.The structure is:

As ____ I want to ____ so that ______

So my user stories will be specific goals of my personas that can start to indicate features:

  • As Sally Solopreneur, I want to find a partner to help me on the journey of developing my platform
  • As a solo non-technical founder, I want to know that the person I hire will help me identify a minimum viable product that won’t waste money on development
  • As an ambitious entrepreneur, I want to find someone that can help me get the work done and teach me new skills that I can apply to my business in the future

I don’t always take the time to do these if I’m building something myself, but they are critical if I’m working with an agile project team.

You might be able to see some of the content and messaging on my website, sales materials, and email campaigns starting to take shape. If I want to make my engagement experience a good one for Sally, I will speak to these needs clearly, specifically, and upfront, without making her have to dig for it.

Customer journeys

[7:31 pm] Now that I’ve thought through my personas and their experience considerations, I’m ready to consider what the journey of identifying, researching, and selecting Auxo for UX strategy and design might look like:

Customer journey map for Sally Solopreneur

[7:55pm] Normally, I would do this on a whiteboard or with post-its first, as it can be hard to capture it all and get the spacing right!

The key elements of a customer journey map:

  • Stage (arrow boxes at the top)
  • Activities (square boxes, one for each action a user might take)
  • Emotions/question (how might they feel at this stage or what would get them to continue)
  • Opportunities (within a stage or activity, how could a feature or message help improve the experience)

A few alternative options for starting points

[7:59 pm] Quick side note:

Ever since the book Business Model Generator popularised the Business Model Canvas in 2010, more and more canvas tools have been popping up to help build strategies for anything from lean startups, to products, to internal communications.

The canvas is a great tool because it supports thinking and conversations about the critical elements of a strategy, while also forcing you to be concise. Distilling ideas into bullet points also helps you to communicate your plan with others and get feedback easily. (Your friends and mentors will be much happier to take a look at a one-page canvas than a 20-page business plan.)

Here is one designed specifically for UX that I like:

UX Strategy Canvas from UXstudio

[8:10 pm] Back to the design.

I now have everything I need to start designing. This is where the magic happens. By having a clear outline of why I am designing, who needs it, and what they care about, it’s easier to have a picture in my head of what that first version looks like.

[8:27pm] My first sketch mix between a sitemap and low-fidelity wireframes:

The first sketch of my website design

I’ve only got some rough ideas of the type of message and content for each of the boxes so far. I’ve put myself in the place of my three primary personas to come up with the layout. For example, I want to start with the business value, rather than the services I perform, because one of my experience considerations identified was that Sally and Micky might not have a clear understanding of UX terms, but they do know what they are looking to achieve in their business.

[8:31 pm] This feels like a good place to wrap up today and pick up tomorrow with the rest of the wireframes and some content strategy!

Stay tuned for part 3!

This post originally appeared on UX Planet