but it is accounted for upfront in the
UX strategy. Adobe Creative Cloud
is an example where the local CPU is
required for tools such as Illustrator
or Photoshop, and the cloud provides
complementary functionality for team
collaboration, multiple-device support,
and shared content management.
When utilized with good UX
architecture, the hybrid configuration
can deliver consistent and high-quality
UX across platforms. Even more
important, it can deliver automated
context and content management,
which users perceive as a significant
usability gain. A simple example of this
automated value is taking pictures on a
phone and having them automatically
appear with geocoding on the desktop.
So, for consumer apps, hybrid
cloud can increase usability, while for
enterprise apps it tends to exacerbate
existing usability deficiencies.
The megatrends bottom line.
Different industries will gain or lose
as a result of these megatrends, but no
industry can change their trajectory.
More important, these trends and
others not covered in this article will
continue to shift the balance of power
toward users while continuing to raise
the competitive usability bar higher.
Identifying the megatrends sets
the contextual stage for UX strategy
definition in theory. Managing the daily
interplay between design constraints
and business factors constitutes
the core practice of delivering on that
There are many internal and external
factors that affect the creation of a
commercial product during its march
to market. The most prevalent ones can
be placed into the following categories
• Market and business
• Capital (financial).
Market and business constraints
include the profile of target users, the
influence of large install bases, and,
most important, the distribution
and sales models that concurrently
sustain and disrupt the business
world every day.
Technical constraints are imposed
by available computing platforms,
the latest or legacy UI toolkits,
network latency, open source
availability, patent law, cross-licensing agreements, interoperability
standards, and regulations relating to
security and privacy.
Organizational constraints include
the position of the UX team within the
corporate hierarchy and its degree of
influence and maturity. However, the
dominant organizational constraint
most designers face is the software
development process itself—usually
some flavor of agile practiced with
varying degrees of precision ranging
from fake to true embodiment. How
UX fits into agile has been the subject
of many articles and debates within
Interactions and other publications for
the past two decades.
Capital availability determines
the time and budget constraints
under which UX research and
design activities take place within
the overall development lifecycle. It
also determines the acquisition of
technology and partnerships that
can bring assets to improve design or
increase functional scope.
UX practitioners have little influence
over business constraints and, like the
rest of R&D, generally must accept
what is dictated by the market and
competition. UX can participate
in technolog y-selection decisions,
particularly those affecting UI
construction. Regarding organizational
and budget constraints, UX leadership
will typically have some ability to
influence both to a degree.
Irrespective of influence level, UX
strategy needs to account for and make
decisions optimized across the full
context of all four categories.
MASTERING BUSINESS AND
The fact that UX strategists can’t alter
the business-model reality often leads
them to neglect these key constraints
during design-strategy formation.
Accounting for the sales distribution
model as part of the UX design process
is of equal importance to understanding
users in achieving market success.
Within the market and business
category, design constraints can
be divided into two groups: those
universal across distribution channels
and those specific to a given sales
Universal business constraints.
Independent of industry, most digital
products encounter design constraints
related to the competition and the
market status quo. In addition,
companies that are hugely successful
will encounter an especially painful set
of constraints caused by a large user
base reluctant to change.
The reference product dilemma. A
common constraint in UX design today
is the result of the de facto UX patterns
established by popular products
and services. These patterns set the
interaction behavior expectations of
billions of users. Good or bad, they have
been learned; many are so familiar they
have been relegated to muscle memory.
New products need not be direct
competitors to these reference products
for them to exert a powerful constraint
over their UX design. Introduce a search
feature into any medical product and
users will expect it to perform exactly
like Google. It does not matter that an
incorrect result set can kill a patient,
while for a general Internet search
engine there is zero risk in omitting a
result—the primary reason they can be
so fast. Within the user’s world view,
search is just search and they want what
they have become accustomed to.
Examples of reference experiences
• Search: Google
• Shopping: Amazon (shopping cart
and catalog flows)
• Spreadsheet: Microsoft Excel
• Social media: Facebook
• Software coding: Eclipse IDE
• Email: Apple Mail and MS Outlook
(for the Web, Gmail)
• Collaboration: Slack.
Most of these de facto patterns were
consciously engineered and heavily
usability tested. Yet they represent only
Figure 1. Key constraints that affect a
commercial product’s development.