UX Maturity Models

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by the trajectory of different organizations as they embrace UX and Design. There are a ton of different models out there to describe this maturing process, but they all tend to have similar steps that are usually followed in a particular order. For example, visual design usually comes before user research.

Compiling this list made me a little overwhelmed. This growth requires an incredible amount of work and patience. For instance, Neilsen Norman Group measures this maturity process in decades, not just years.

On the other hand, these maturity models provide hope because they give a clear roadmap on what UX practices should be embraced and when.

My Analysis

Comparison of UX Maturity Models- Shane Gryzko


Nielsen Norman Group: 8 stages


  • Can’t skip steps. Trying to throw a stage 3 company into stage 7 will kill it. People can’t cope with the extremes of the later stages unless they have time to adjust to the smaller changes of the earlier stages.
    • startup hack (can skip the first couple stages if ux founder)
    • acquisition hack (buy a developed UX agency like AdaptivePath)
  • Move through the stages in sequence
  • 2013 talk has a great chart showing correlation between management support and UX methodologies


  • Mentions “Lots of published UX maturity models”:
    • Enterprise Usability Maturity, J. Ashley & K. Desmond(2010)
    • Usability Maturity Models, T. Jokela (2010)
    • Corporate UX Maturity, S. Van Tyne (2007)
    • Corporate Usability Maturity Model, J. Nielsen (2006)
    • Usability Maturity Model, J. Earthy (1998)
  • Also see their whitepaper
  • Case study- underutilized team
    • “It really is a game of follow the leader. If the people with access to money and resources do not invest in UX… then all other characteristics of maturity are unlikely to see the light of day.”
    • “rationale for this “UX-less” approach was essentially rooted in the perception of speed and cost.”
  • case study- legacy app
    • UX largely seen as “making the screen design easy to use.
    • the leadership was behind bringing in outside experts for the application.
    • no UX in requirements phase but no UX in requirements phase but one product overhauled with positive results- exposed necessary changes in family of related products
    • rapidly adopted a number of the characteristics of mature organizations – truly driven by their leadership.
    • emergence of UX culture
  • what a UX culture needs
    1. You need leadership and alignment on how to approach designing a new product or re-designing an old one.
    2. You need cross-functional teams with everyone getting on board early.
    3. You need to look at the broader ecosystem.
  • This five-stage framework may not exactly match the specifics of a particular organization. In the real world, organizations may display a mix of characteristics from different stages across their organization
  • To do it properly, experts need to be hired or consulted.
    • I disagree. It’s FAR slower but it can slowly grow within an organization as well
  • very comprehensive list. Even includes some YouTube videos!
UXPA Magazine: 4 Stages  (interesting order- expert evaluation, then user tests, then competitive benchmarking?)
Stage 0: “Chaos”
  1. Operational
    • Leader
    • Team and process
  2. Tactical
    • Team integration
    • Principles and guidelines
  3. Strategic
    • Knowledge transfer
    • Design as a market differentiator
other models (from UXMatters):
To gain a broad understanding of the problem space, it would be helpful to examine some other existing UX maturity models. These UX maturity models include the following:

Search for “Shaffer, 2004 paper on institutionalization of usability”. Mentioned by Macadamian. Sounds juicy. OHHH! That’s Institutionalization of UX! The book I put on my list to read by this summer! I think it’s time to stop putting that one off.

Jared Spool interview- Inside Intercom Podcast

  • start with what we call the UX dark ages, which is an organization that has never thought about UX, they don’t talk about UX, they’re about doing the thing they do.
  • [Then] the spot UX phase. You bring in somebody and they work on UX for a while, and then you send them away. Or maybe you have a manager who drives a UX project until the rest of the organization overtakes them, and then they get fed up and they leave.
  • Design as a service: Instead of using outside agencies anymore, we’re going to bring that in house and we’re going to create this service that basically replicates what the outside agencies were doing for us, but at a much cheaper rate.
  • Embedded UX: The next stage is when a team that the service has been servicing, realizes that design is actually critical to their success. They get frustrated hiring that team for spot pieces as they go. Instead they hire people from the team to actually be embedded in the project.
  • design-infused organization, where everybody sees themselves as a UX person. The performance engineers, the product managers, the lawyers who create the license agreements, everybody has some influence over the user experience and is actively working to provide the best user experience possible.
  • The UX Tipping Point: when you stop shipping products, not because it technically doesn’t work or the business model isn’t met, but because it’s not designed well enough for your standards. You actually use design to hold up your product.
  • These days, you can talk to most boards and they’re panicked because they see how the Nest scenario played out. A bunch of ex-Apple dudes found a market that no one was talking about, took it over, and defined what the next generation of product was to be.
    • You’re on par to be the next GM while Tesla wipes your ass with electric cars. What do you want to do? Do you want to wait until a Tesla shows up in your industry? Or do you want to be the Tesla of your industry?
    • You can say, “Oh, it’s too hard.” Okay, I’ve got a timer, when do we want to set the date? We’ll just count down until you’re dead.

Artefact Group- Design Maturity Survey
September 2015

  • A tool where you answer a few questions and they give you ratings in a few areas on how mature your design practice is in the following areas
    1. Empathy: The maturity of the organization’s understanding of its customers;
    2. Mastery: The maturity of the organization’s quality of execution in design thinking and crafting;
    3. Character: The maturity of the organizational support for design, design thinking and integration of professional designers;
    4. Performance: The market’s response to the design output of the organization;
    5. Impact: The maturity of the organization’s actions around its Cultural, social and its environmental legacy through its design.
  • The Design Maturity Matrix shows 5 levels of maturity in each of these categories
  • “10% of the Fortune’s top 125 companies have executive level positions and CEO support for design”
  • “venture capital firms… invite designers into their own teams to strengthen the design ethos of their portfolio companies”
  • Initial lessons learned published in 2016
    1. Smaller is (sometimes) better
      • Surprising. I thought bigger companies were usually more mature… Oh! Actually they’re saying small and large companies are usually more mature than medium-sized ones.
      • “If your company is stuck in the middle, think about how to organize your teams so that design has a clear voice across business practices and product teams.”
    2. People in mid-level positions tended to give their organizations the lowest maturity scores
      • Either leadership is disconnected or mid-level people are being stifled.
    3. The Chief Design Officer is not a savior
      • Just hiring an executive is not enough
      • “be patient to get to the slope of enlightenment and become a more mature design organization.”
    4. Design maturity is associated with rigorous training
      • “organizations that ranked high in training were more likely to report greater design maturity.”
      • “If you want to make a difference in your organization… train cross-disciplinary teams in design thinking.”
    5. “B2C companies are more mature than either B2B companies or companies that have both B2C and B2B orientations.”
      • Thought so!


Diginomica: How to design a maturity model

  • Bring in an external expert to create a 2-3 year plan
  • Choose  between an “embedded” or “distributed” UX approach
  • some companies elevate UX to a top-level differentiator
  • UX is not a “one and done” type thing