The Institutionalization of User Experience Book

Institutionalization of UX:
A Step-by-Step Guide to a User Experience Practice

First, Dr. Eric Schaffer of Human Factors International brought you The Institutionalization of Usability and now he has teamed up with Apala Lahiri to take on the next evolution of user experience in their new book Institutionalization of UX: A Step-by-Step Guide to a User Experience Practice.

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What you’ll learn

A Solid Methodology

Practical advice on the milestones, toolsets, infrastructure, staffing, governance, and operational changes needed to achieve fully mature UX engineering

Beyond Usability

Go beyond the science of usability to the broader, deeper implications of UX to ensure that user engagements are satisfying, engaging, and relevant

Robust UX

Don't go lean. Instead, differentiate by building a mature and robust UX program


Learn what infrastructure you need in order to make UX design faster, cheaper, and better

Tools and Templates

Understand the resources you need to have in-place to empower your staff and processes

Global Management

New in this edition is a chapter that will help you to successfully manage large global projects and teams

Institutionalizing UX

Learn how to develop a mature, user-centered design practice within an enterprise to routinely build good customer experiences on an industrial scale

Future Trends

Learn how UX strategy, systematic innovation, and persuasive design are vital for future success

Questions the book addresses

Questions about Structure

Corporate Structure

• How do I identify an executive champion?
• What are the best reporting structures?
• Do we need a central or decentralized UX team?
• How much money do we need to budget for strategic user experience?
• How do we develop a corporate UX strategy?

Questions about Staffing and Training

Staffing & Training

• What UX training is required for UX professionals and non-UX professionals, including Management?
• How do we recruit and evaluate candidates for UX and design teams?
• How many UX & Usability professionals do I need?
• How do we mentor our employees?

Questions about Methods and Governance

Methods & Governance

• What are UX methods and how do they integrate with software development processes (SDLCs)?
• What are standards and how are they developed and maintained?
• How do we manage our UX infrastructure?
• How do we develop metrics for continuous improvement?
• Who owns the standard and how is it evolved?

Questions about International UX

International UX

• Why does internationalization and local expertise matter?
• What structures do we need in-place to manage global teams?
• What tools are required to manage global projects?
• How has international UX and design evolved and what does the future hold?
• What is the level of maturity in the global market?

Sample pages

Read selected pages from the complete book, which includes over 350 pages of UX insights from two of the foremost thought leaders in UX and organizational development.

Table of Contents

Read This First!

Part I: Start-up
Chapter 1: The Executive Champion
Chapter 2: Selecting a Usability Consultant

Part II: Set-up
Chapter 3: Institutionalization Strategy
Chapter 4: Methodology
Chapter 5: Interface Design Standards
Chapter 6: Standard User Profiles and Ecosystem Models
Chapter 7: Tools, Templates, and Testing Facilities
Chapter 8: Training and Certification
Chapter 9: Knowledge Management
Chapter 10: Governance
Chapter 11: Organizational Structure
Chapter 12: Staffing
Chapter 13: Projects
Chapter 14: Long-Term Activities of the Central Team
Chapter 15: The Future
Chapter 16: Design for Worldwide Applications



More than 10 years ago, I wrote The Institutionalization of Usability. Now, so much has changed in the field that a very new edition is needed. For one thing, the name of the field has changed. We now call ourselves “user experience (UX) designers.” With that change in title comes new responsibilities. We no longer can focus on simple tasks and human–computer interaction. Systems are embedded everywhere, and we must design for complex ecosystems. That means using ethnographically inspired methods and advanced tools for knowledge management. It is no longer enough to make a site or application easy to use. Usability is now a hygiene factor—to be competitive, most organizations must understand how to engineer persuasion into their digital systems. In turn, we need a whole new set of methods and insights that let us systematically design for engagement, psychological influence, and customer commitment.
The field has also reached up the value chain within organizations. A UX team that deals with only the details of radio buttons and check boxes is committing a disservice to its organization. Today UX groups must deal with strategy. We must help define how executive intent can be turned into successful designs and the desired business results. So the executive wants to transition customers into low-cost, digital channels—why will the customer want to make that transition? The UX team must design the cross-channel integration and optimization so that customers will understand which channel to use and will experience a common but appropriate interaction on the Web, mobile device, tablet, or other device.
Finally, the UX team is a key component of the organization’s innovation process. When I wrote Institutionalization of Usability, the idea of a mature, industrial-strength practice seemed remote to most people. I debated this topic with the great usability pioneer Jarred Spool in a session that was billed as “The Celebrity Death Match.” His argument was that usability could be practiced only as craftsmanship—that it could not be institutionalized. Yet I was already institutionalizing it within Human Factors International and starting to help my corporate clients build their own practice. Today, most organizations of any size and sophistication are building UX teams, and there is widespread recognition that customer-centered design is the best practice for system development. In the process of helping to mature our clients’ UX teams, we have learned quite a lot. The challenges of institutionalization have clearly changed. In the past, the major issue was securing executive championship. Today, however, most high-level executives understand that customer experience is a key business goal. They have read about the user experience economy, seen Apple Computer thrive, and read innumerable executive briefings on customer experience. Unfortunately, these executives often have no idea how to bring about UX, and they take a fairly predictable set of wrong paths to try to make it happen. In addition, there are still challenges in culture change and governance—cultural and organizational design issues are pivotal today. Staffing also poses serious challenges. It is common for organizations to get perhaps 2% of the UX staff they need and then drop the initiative when they find that their designs have not substantially improved and their UX team seems demoralized. Yet the pool of qualified UX specialists remains small. My own company, Human Factors International (HFI), is by now quite experienced in hiring practices, internal training, and the use of offshore resources.
Setting up a UX infrastructure today is relatively easy. Training and certification are available. Methods and standards simply need to be customized to fit an organization’s needs, and plenty of new UX tools can be readily accessed. These foundational components should no longer be an impediment to creating a UX capability.
The best practice of UX work has been a bit of a surprise. My initial thought was that institutionalized UX work would be like what we did in the 1990s, except that there would be more of it. I thought implementing UX would involve more craftspeople and apprentices. They would have methods and standards, of course, but, I thought, the experience would essentially be more of the same. Instead, it turns out that pivoting to a serious UX practice entails fundamental changes in the way the work gets done. We have even seen the dawn of object-oriented UX work, which optimizes reuse.
Finally, in this book I would like to introduce Apala Lahiri, CEO of HFI’s Global Customer Experience Institute and an expert in cross-cultural design. The Institute has one objective—to answer the question, “How does one best operate a UX practice that must design for users worldwide?” Do we need to have a UX team in each of our 115 target countries? Clearly not. Yet Apala’s motto is “Think globally and lose locally.” A design created for “the world” will rarely compete with a design created with sharp focus on a given culture and context. Based on my experiences and with Apala’s contributions, we will share the current best practices for a global UX operation in this edition.

Selection from of Chapter 3: What to Consider When Developing the Strategic Plan

This is a quick look inside of Chapter 3, but you can get the full chapter. Click for details.

Putting a mature user experience design practice in place can be a lot like changing an airplane’s wings while it is in flight. There is a blizzard of current projects that have to be supported. At the same time, you need to put capabilities into place. While this situation might seem daunting, it is actually a good place to be (assuming you have the resources to avoid getting buried under the immediate tactical needs).
Ideally, you can have a real synergy between tactical programs and building capabilities. Recognize that your tactical programs can serve as showcases through which the value of mature user experience design can be demonstrated. It is odd: you can show a dozen industry examples of the value of user experience design to executives, but they never seem to have the impact of a single internal project.
It is particularly useful when you have some programs that try to get by without user experience design, and perhaps others that a marketing firm and perhaps some good visual designers have attempted to help make customer-centered. When these efforts are compared with serious user experience design, the results usually make a compelling case for UX institutionalization.
Concurrent showcase projects also have value beyond conveying the value of user experience design. They allow you to refine and validate the infrastructure created in your capabilities-building program. You can apply the methods and standards and see if they work smoothly in your environment, and verify whether your staff can really complete designated activities.
In the end, then, it is a major benefit to have parallel tracks of tactical work and capabilities building. While it may take two years to complete your overall institutionalization effort, you will see benefits from your tactical work almost immediately. Moreover, the growth in user experience design infrastructure will start to pay off within a few months. The documented plan itself can be a short-term program with a duration of as little as three months or as long as two years. In any event, there should always be a written strategy covering the current growth path of the user experience design operation

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What UX experts are saying

Harley Manning Quote

Harley Manning

Vice president & research director, customer experience, Forrester Research

“This book is a great how-to manual for people who want to bring the benefits of improved user experience to their companies. It’s thorough yet still accessible for the smart businessperson. I’ve been working with user-centered design for over twenty years, and I found myself circling tips and tricks.”

Arnie Lund  Quote

Arnie Lund

Connected experience labs technology leader and human - systems interaction lab manager,
GE Global Research

”Some argue that the big advances in our impact on user experience will come from better methods or new technologies. Some argue that they will come from earlier involvement in the design and development process. The biggest impact, however, will come as more and more companies realize the benefits of user-centered design and build cultures that embrace it. Eric offers a practical roadmap to get there.”

Aaron Marcus  Quote

Aaron Marcus

President, Aaron Marcus and Associates, Inc.

“User experience issues are a key challenge for development of increasingly complex products and services. This book provides much-needed insights to help managers achieve their key objectives and to develop more successful solutions.”

Ed Israelski Quote

Ed Israelski

Director, Human factors, AbbVie

“This handy book should be required reading for any executive champions of change in any development organization making products that demand a compelling user experience. It does an excellent job in laying the foundation for incorporating user experience engineering concepts and best practices into these corporations. In today’s competitive economy, business success will greatly depend on instituting the changes in design methods and thinking that are so clearly and simply put forth in this most practical and useful book.”

Pat Malecek  Quote

Pat Malecek

former user experience manager, AVP, CUA, A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc.

“If you’re tasked with building a user-experience practice in a large organization, this book is for you (and your boss). Informed by years of case studies and consulting experience, Eric Schaffer provides the long view, clearly describing what to expect, what to avoid, and how to succeed in establishing user-centered principles at your company.”

Felica Selenko Quote

Feliça Selenko

Ph.D., former principal technical staff member, AT&T

”For those of us who have evangelized user experience for so many years, we finally have a book that offers meaningful insights that can only come from years of practical experience in the real world. Here is a wonderful guide for all who wish to make user experience a ‘way of life’ for their companies.”

Colin Hynes  Quote

Colin Hynes

President, UX Inc.

“Dr. Schaffer’s mantra is that the main differentiator for companies of the future will be the ability to build practical, useful, usable, and satisfying user experiences. This is a book that provides the road map necessary to allow your organization to achieve these goals.”

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Author interview

Meet the Authors - A Conversation

In-depth interview with HFI Founder & CEO, Dr. Eric Schaffer and co-author Apala Lahiri, HFI Global Head of Technical Staff. They discuss:

Segment 1:
• Industry changes that sparked this new edition
• Emerging trends in global markets, including localization and UX process management
Segment 2:
• The ROI and business case for mature UX
• What it means to run a mature UX operation
Segment 3:
• Certifying organizations for UX maturity
• Future trends and the evolution of UX

The authors discuss their collaboration, key insights into the modern state of corporate UX, and they look into the future of UX. The 30-minute video has been divided into three sections, which may be watched in the playlist or on YouTube.

About the authors

Author Pictures

Dr. Eric Schaffer
Founder and CEO of Human Factors International

Dr. Eric Schaffer’s prediction that the most profound differentiator for corporate computing would be a positive online user experience has made him a visionary of the “Third Wave of the Information Age.” Dr. Schaffer saw that differentiation would come from getting the user experience design job done efficiently, easily, and without frustration. Founder and CEO of Human Factors International, Dr. Schaffer has been in the field since 1977 and has run consulting and training operations worldwide.

Apala Lahiri
Global Chief of Technical Staff at Human Factors International

As Global Chief of Technical Staff at Human Factors International and CEO of the Institute of Customer Experience, Apala is one of the world’s top experts in cross-cultural design and contextual innovation. A TEDx presenter and the originator of The Bollywood Method, Bizarre Bazaar, and Funky Facilitator techniques, Apala has helped companies around the world to better understand user experience in diverse cultural and economic environments.

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