UX maturity

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

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.

Overview of this page

A basic, general maturity scale

The following scale reflects the ISO 33020 standard.

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 usable UX maturity scale

I have adapted the basic, general maturity scale for UX purposes. The following table shows key UX activities for each step:

LevelSpecific characteristics
Innovating► The human-centred design process is continuously improved based on internal and external experience.
► The human-centred design process is fully aligned with business goals.
► The organization employs user research to determine its overall direction and priorities. User experience is extended to service design issues.
Predictable► UX goals are tied to business goals.
► The organization tracks quality through quantitative usability metrics. Each project has quantitative user requirements that the project must meet for the design to be greenlighted for release.
► The organization only releases products that meet measurable UX goals.
► The organization solicits and acts on feedback from its users regarding operational systems. Compliance with standards for UX activities is checked regularly. In case of deviations, corrective action is taken.
Established► UX is not dependent on any specific person. Regardsless of who leaves the organization, UX work will continue.
► There is one or more UX managers.
► Cross-organizational UX is a natural part of development.
► The organization tests the user experience of its products, for example support.
► The organization has concise standards for UX activities, for example usability testing. Most projects carry out field visits, create and test prototypes in an iterative process
Managed► Some executives invest in UX. There is a budget for UX.
► The UX process is planned, monitored and adjusted.
► The human-centred design process is implemented in a managed fashion, and its work products are appropriately established, controlled and maintained.
► 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.
Performed► Usability is achieved by enthusiastic individuals using ad-hoc processes.
► A few 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.
► Usability 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.

Comments on the scales

My UX maturity scale is based on the ISO 33020 standard. I have six steps in my maturity scale because ISO 33020 has six steps, and because it is my experience that six steps are manageable and enough to cover the important differences in UX maturity.

A few rules for applying the scales:

  • 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 scale

The above scales are for UX maturity in general. I have developed a scale 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 scales

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

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

Pointers and acknowledgements

The above maturity scales are inspired, among others, by