This is the second installment of our series on the 12 Competencies of UX Design.
When you think of the most admired CEOs and designers of our time, what makes them so great? It’s often their vision: their ability to articulate a meaningful desired outcome.
This is what has made people like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk so successful and revered. It has the same effect on everyday designers. Whether you’re working on a big initiative or an individual task, creating a vision makes all the difference.
A vision statement speeds up decision making.
A vision statement keeps your team and organization aligned.
A vision statement leads to more meaningful products and experiences that attract loyal, like-minded customers.
And it does all of that with just a few words that share a strong, distinct point of view.
Your product or company vision goes hand-in-hand with UX design competency #1: knowing your purpose. Think of your vision as what you want to achieve and your purpose as why you want to achieve it.
Your vision doesn’t need to be long or complex. In fact, the best ones are exactly the opposite. An effective vision:
- Reinforces the deeper “why” or purpose behind your work
- Pinpoints a real problem your customers or users often experience
- Paints a picture of what the future will look and feel like when you solve that problem
- Is validated by users (Users typically come first in UX design, but this is one of the few scenarios where we recommend that the Product Owner or leader sets their vision first, then completes user research to validate their idea.)
Notice that we didn’t mention anything about what the actual feature, product, service, or experience is. That’s intentional. Your vision doesn’t need to — and shouldn’t — get into the nitty gritty details. It’s a short, high-level, aspirational statement about the outcome or future state that will be achieved as a result of your work.
Your vision doesn’t need to — and shouldn’t — get into the nitty gritty details. It’s a a short, high-level, aspirational statement about the outcome or future state that will be achieved as a result of your work.
Good vs. Bad Vision Statement Examples
Let’s compare a few product and company vision statements to see how this works in real life.
In 2013, Facebook released a new product that they were sure was going to be the next big thing for Android users: Facebook Home. The app was essentially a “wrapper” that made Facebook your phone’s home screen.
Facebook’s vision statement for Home was to “turn an Android phone into a great, living, social phone.”
Let’s see how it scores:
| Reinforces the deeper “why” or purpose behind the work | Somewhat | | --------- | --------- | | Pinpoints a real problem your customers or users often experience | No | | Paints a picture of what the future will look and feel like when you solve that problem | Yes | | Validated by users | No |
The Home vision may have sounded cool, but it missed the mark in many ways.
The concept of Home is somewhat related to the company mission (“to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”) in that Home would make it easier for people to share and connect on Facebook. However, “a great, living, social phone” doesn’t make the link to this mission statement very clear.
The vision statement also didn’t solve a significant problem for enough people. Home was the result of massive internal efforts to deeply integrate Facebook into users’ lives, not a real consumer need. Facebook would have discovered this if they had validated the vision with real people. As Business Insider noted, “The consensus between reviewers and critics: Home worked only for the most fanatical of users.”
Poor vision was one of the things that led to Home’s fast demise. Within less than a month of being released, the two-year subscription plan dropped from $99 to $0.99, and within a year, the Home team of engineers was disbanded.
While Facebook Home failed to gain traction, 23andMe has skyrocketed from a startup to an industry leader (in an entirely new category too!) backed by Google, Johnson & Johnson, and several other big biotech players — thanks, in part, to a meaningful vision.
CEO Anne Wojcicki says her DNA testing and genetic analysis firm has a two-fold vision: to give people greater access and ownership of their health information, and to revolutionize drug discovery.
Let’s see how this vision stacks up:
| Reinforces the deeper “why” or purpose behind the work | Yes | | --- | --- | | Pinpoints a real problem your customers or users often experience | Yes | | Paints a picture of what the future will look and feel like when you solve that problem | Yes | | Validated by users | Yes |
23andMe’s vision scores high on all fronts. It connects back to their purpose of helping people access, understand, and benefit from the human genome. It solves a real problem that multiple audiences validated: Consumers want to better understand their DNA and health without having to go to fancy labs and pay for expensive tests, and drug companies want a way to develop new products that they know will do well in the market. Plus, the vision statement articulates that 23andMe will help both sides reach their goals.
With such a clear, meaningful company vision, it’s no surprise they have been so successful. Forbes reports that 23andMe has received over $490 million in funding, has over 5 million customers in more than 50 countries, and employs over 500 people — proof that creating a solid vision of the desired outcome is a key step to achieving it.
A Vision for Victory
While it’s tempting to skip creating a vision statement so you can focus on technical skills and “doing the work,” the most successful brands of our time will attest that it has been a key factor in their success. By quickly articulating your design philosophy (starting with your “why” and vision), you and your team will be able to make faster and easier decisions, stay aligned, and build experiences that bring your vision to life.