Between my recreational, science fiction reads, I like reading books to brush up on product and business development, software development techniques, management and leadership skills, and business strategy. Strangely enough (tongue in cheek), the emails I get from Amazon are either full of sci-fi books or business books. Therefore, I was not surprised when UX Strategy: How to Devise Innovative Digital Products that People Want by Jamie Levy showed up in my Amazon recommendations. Since I work with clients on product development strategies, as well as potential product ideas for my business, UX Strategy looked like it had a lot of potential. The strong reviews on Amazon certainly didn’t hurt its cause, so I added it to my short list of books for 2016.
I’ve read enough business books on my Kindle that I can tell early on if I’ve hit upon a good book. Traits of a good business book for me are
- I find myself highlighting numerous passages for later reference
- I talk about it and quote it when interacting with co-workers and clients
- I look forward to each chapter and the chance to explore new concepts and ideas
- It takes me multiple weeks to finish since I find that I have to focus and digest the content carefully, unlike my recreational reads that usually take just a few days to a week to finish
As you might expect, UX Strategy hit all of these points. Given my interest in business strategy and product development, I found the book to be a very interesting read.
With a title like UX Strategy, you might think that the book would focus on how to translate features into a user interface. You would be wrong. Jamie Levy spends very little time, if any, discussing user interface development and design. Her focus is on taking a product idea and determining its market viability and potential.
What I really liked about the book is how she mixed her ideas, concepts and theories with real life stories and clients she has worked with. She showed how she put her ideas into practice to help her clients determine if they had a hit or miss on their hands. Furthermore, I like how she focuses on the entire spectrum of product ideas. She details those that had promise, those that needed work and refinement, and those that were dogs. In other words, you get to see how her concepts are applied to arrive at a go/no-go decision.
On the practical side, she focuses on how to get to these decision with the smallest amount of up front investment. For those unfamiliar with software development, projects can easily balloon into tens, or even hundreds, of thousand of dollars in investment quickly. Jamie talks about how to do market surveys and prototypes to gauge customer interest to minimize costs before starting the expensive development process. She also covers the importance of the MVP, or minimum viable product, in order to get market feedback as quickly as possible.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the book is her emphasis on developing your product’s key benefit. You can call it the “wow” factor, but I believe she would prefer to call it the killer solution your product delivers. In other words, what is the one key problem that your product solves for the customer. In addition to solving it, does the customer care. If they do, then they will be willing to pay to have it solved, and they will tell others. If this is case, then you know you have a product that you could build a business around.
UX Strategy is a must read for those in the software start-up domain. I would encourage anyone starting a company to read it, whether they have a strong software background or not. I would also recommend they couple the book with User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton. UX Strategy helps one to manage and mitigate the risk of the product idea and market fit, User Story Mapping helps manage the risk of product development and building an MVP for your target customers. Simply put, these two books take a lot of the guess work out of the processes necessary for building both a successful product, and, ultimately, a successful company.
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