UX maturity

Use the information on this page to assess the UX maturity of your team and your organization and to set specific goals for improving your UX maturity.

UX maturity is the level of understanding and implementation of a systematic human-centered design process within an organization or a development team.

A UX maturity model is a framework that enables organizations to assess the quality and effectiveness of their user research processes and practice. A UX maturity model helps organizations and product teams understand where they are and what to strive for.

Further definitions, for example business goal, business strategy, and more.


Overview of this page


A basic, general maturity model

Table 1 shows a maturity model from the ISO 33020 standard for assessment of process capability, which is the point of departure for my UX maturity models.

The highest maturity level (Innovating) appears at the top of the table; the lowest maturity level (Incomplete) appears at the bottom

LevelGeneral definition
InnovatingThe process is continually improved to respond to change aligned with organizational goals
PredictableQuantitative management needs are identified, measurement data are collected and analyzed to identify assignable causes of variation. Corrective action is taken to address assignable causes of variation
EstablishedThe Managed process is implemented using a defined process that is capable of achieving its project outcomes
ManagedThe Performed process is implemented in a managed fashion (planned, monitored and adjusted) and its work products are appropriately established, controlled and maintained
PerformedThe implemented process achieves its process purpose.
IncompleteThe process is not implemented or fails to achieve its process purpose


A UX maturity model for UX professionals

I have adapted the basic, general maturity model in Table 1 for UX professionals. Table 2 shows key UX characteristics of each level:

LevelKey UX characteristics
Innovating► There is a UX strategy and a UX goal for each relevant business goal
► The organization solicits input from users to determine its overall direction and priorities. Input comes from user research, support, training and more. Helpful input is rewarded to encourage further input.
► Major new features are discussed and pre-approved by an advisory panel of distinguished users based on UX test results
► The standard for UX and UX work is continuously improved based on internal and external experience.
Predictable► The organization defines and tracks quality through reasonable quantitative UX metrics.
► Only products that meet reasonable measurable UX goals are released.
► The organization solicits and acts on feedback from its users regarding operational systems.
► UX is considered an industrial process, not an art, so compliance with the standard for UX activities is checked regularly. In case of deviations, corrective action is taken.
► UX is not dependent on any specific person. Regardless of who leaves the organization, UX work will continue.
Established► Cross-organizational UX is a natural part of development.
► The organization tests the UX of its products, for example support.
► Most projects carry out field visits and create and test prototypes in an iterative process
► The organization employs dedicated UX researchers and one or more UX managers
► The organization has concise standards for UX activities, for example interview and usability testing.
Managed► There is a budget for UX. Some executives invest in UX.
► The UX process it limited to usability tests, which mainly occur shortly before or after release. Field visits and other forms of user involvement are rare.
► The human-centered design process is implemented in a managed fashion, and its work products are appropriately established, controlled and maintained.
► Management may refuse to make inconvenient decisions that are strongly recommended by UXers
Performed► Usability is achieved by enthusiastic individuals using ad-hoc processes.
► A few unsystematic but still helpful usability tests are conducted
Incomplete► Product managers may say that they care about usability, but when it comes to spending budgets or making otherwise inconvenient decisions to achieve usability, for example, delaying a release, nothing happens.
► There is no budget for UX. A good UX is fine if it comes for free, but no one is committed to delivering it.
► Teams practice developer-centered design and complaint-driven design.
► Design is based solely on opinions.
Hostile (not part of ISO scale)► Developers simply don’t want to hear about users or their needs; their only goal is to build features and make them work on the computer. In this mindset, humans are irrelevant — they're told to use the system, regardless of whether doing so is easy or pleasant.


A UX maturity model for management

Based on feedback from colleagues and my presentations, I have adapted the maturity model in Table 2 to speak the language of executives. UX professionals may use Table 3 and Table 4 to sell UX to their executives. Table 3 is a short appetizer, while Table 4 is the full model.

Table 3 shows the top characteristic of each level from an executive viewpoint:

LevelKey characteristics
Innovating► “Our profound understanding of customers, which comes from careful user research, enables us to add value that none of our competitors currently deliver.”
Predictable► "We know why our products are usable. We have little or no risk of releasing an unusable product, because only products that meet reasonable measurable UX goals are released."
Established► "We test the UX of our products, not just usability. For example, we UX test delivery, handling of complaints and support. Customer journey maps are helpful."
Managed► The human-centered design process is implemented in a managed fashion, and its work products are appropriately established, controlled and maintained.
Performed► UX activities such as usability tests are tolerated. Usability is achieved by enthusiastic individuals using ad-hoc processes.
Incomplete► "Oops. Support and independent reviews tell us that our users have serious problems using our products. What do we do now? Of course, it must not cost us anything and the deadlines must be observed."
Hostile► Usability problems are not recognized: "We don't have usability problems, period!"


Table 4 shows the 3-5 main characteristics of each maturity level from an executive viewpoint:

LevelKey characteristics
Innovating► “Our profound understanding of customers, which comes from careful user research, enables us to add value that none of our competitors currently deliver.”
► "Our products are not only usable, they are desirable, and we know why, because we continuously work to uncover the needs of our customers and translate customer needs into useful and usable products."
► "Customers are fans of our brand and our products because of our renowned user experience. They are willing to pay more for the great user experience we promise and deliver."
► There is a UX strategy and a UX goal for each relevant business goal.
► The organization actively turns to users to determine its overall direction and priorities. Input comes from observation, interviews, user research, support, training and more.
Predictable► "We know why our products are usable. We have little or no risk of releasing an unusable product, because only products that meet reasonable measurable UX goals are released."
► "We constantly monitor the user experience of our products through KPIs and make necessary adjustments."
► Inconvenient, last-minute decisions regarding the user experience are rare, because the UX process is closely monitored so problems are detected early when they are still cheap to correct.
► The organization solicits and acts on feedback from its users regarding operational systems.
► UX is considered an industrial process, not an art, so compliance with the standard for UX activities is checked regularly. In case of deviations, corrective action is taken.
Established► "We test the UX of our products, not just usability. For example, we UX test delivery, handling of complaints and support. Customer journey maps are helpful."
► "All products have a consistent appearance, which strengthens our brand." Cross-organizational UX is a natural part of development.
► Most projects carry out field visits and create and test prototypes in an iterative process
► The organization employs dedicated UX researchers and one or more UX managers
► UX is not dependent on any specific person. Regardless of who leaves the organization, UX work will continue.
Managed► The human-centered design process is implemented in a managed fashion, and its work products are appropriately established, controlled and maintained.
► There is a budget for UX. Some executives invest in UX.
► Management often refuses to make inconvenient decisions requested by UX professionals
Performed► UX activities such as usability tests are tolerated. Usability is achieved by enthusiastic individuals using ad-hoc processes.
► A few unsystematic but still helpful usability tests are conducted
► Some executives curiously observe a few usability tests but remain convinced that usability is mainly common sense and experience.
Incomplete► "Oops. Support and independent reviews tell us that our users have serious problems using our products. What do we do now? Of course, it must not cost us anything and the deadlines must be observed."
► Design is based solely on opinions. The highest paid person makes decisions based on experience and opinion.
► Teams practice developer-centered design and complaint-driven design.
Hostile (not part of ISO scale)► Usability problems are not recognized: "We don't have usability problems, period!"


Comments on the models

My UX maturity model is based on the ISO 33020 standard. I use the same terms for the maturity levels as ISO 33030. I have six levels in my maturity models because ISO 33020 has six levels, and because it is my experience that six levels are manageable and enough to cover the important differences in UX maturity.

A few rules for applying the models:

  • The UX maturity of an organization is the UX maturity of the product team with the lowest UX maturity
  • You need a neutral external expert to assess your team’s or your organization’s UX maturity. Or, even better, two independent neutral experts.
  • Managers often believe that their organization’s UX maturity is much higher than what an external expert would conclude.

True UX maturity is closely related to true commitment to UX. Here’s a great quote about what true commitment means:

Commitment is not doing what you want to do.  … 
Commitment is doing what you don’t want to do –
because it is difficult, expensive, or inconvenient.
In fact, the more you don’t want to do something,
but continue doing it because you believe it to be the right thing to do,
the more you are committed to it.

– – Phillip G. Armour – –


A usability test maturity model

The above models are for UX maturity in general. Based on my experience, in particular from usability testing certification, I have developed a model for an organization’s maturity with respect to usability testing:

LevelSpecific characteristics of usability test
InnovatingSame as for Predictable
Predictable► Quantitative usability tests are carried out by appropriately trained usability specialists
► Compliance with the standard for usability testing is checked regularly.
► Usability test sessions are rarely observed by stakeholders. Difficult issues that require discussions with stakeholders are described carefully by the usability professional based on usability tests and discussed in workshops.
► Change requests based on usability tests are entered directly into the bug database or the backlog. This implies that no usability findings can be ignored.
Established► There is a standard for usability testing
► The organization tests the user experience of its products and services
► Stakeholders are involved in planning usability tests.
► Usability test results are discussed with stakeholders – not just presented to them.
Managed► Usability tests are planned and approved by management based on a usability test plan.
► Usability tests are carried out by appropriately trained usability specialists
Performed► A few usability tests are conducted by enthusiastic individuals. They may be amateurish, but they still produce some valuable results.
► A few usablity tests are carried out by external usability consultants.
► Usability tests are considered interesting and observed by curious stakeholders.
► Some organisations may set up a usability lab.
► Usability test results are presented to stakeholders.
Incomplete► No usability tests

At the maturity levels “Predictable” and “Innovating”, the observation of usability test sessions by stakeholders is considered unproductive. “Seeing is believing” is relevant only at lower levels.


Further maturity models

I have developed similar maturity models for some of the pillars of UX work:

  • Interview
  • User requirements
  • Prototyping
  • UX activity standards for interview, usability test and more
  • Styleguides
  • Support and Feedback
  • Range of UX work

Contact me for more information about these maturity models.


Stories about increasing UX maturity

I have written two stories about UX maturity. These stories, which I continue to work on, describe in more detail what to strive for and how you can move from a low UX maturity level to higher levels.

Living in UX Paradise – A UX Future Vision (version 2020-10-23)
Describes a day in the life of Chris, the UX manager at Delta Market. Delta Market is at the highest UX maturity level, innovative. The story also tells how Eva, a customer at Delta Market, experiences Delta’s high UX maturity.

A UX Stratega – A Fictitious but Realistic Example of a UX Strategy (version 2020-11-26)
Describes the ten specific steps that Alice, the first UX hire at Gamma Airlines, took to increase the UX maturity of Gamma Airlines from incomplete to managed or higher.


Pointers and acknowledgements

The above maturity models are inspired, among others, by