UX Maturity Models – A Collection

For at least ten years now I have been collecting User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) Maturity Models.  I keep hoping to find the perfect one to help executives understand what we do, and what good looks like.  Oftentimes my conversations are about how to maximize funding for UX services.  Other times the goal may be to help an executive understand just how much further we have to go before we’re really getting the benefits of engaging a UX professional.

Over the years, I’ve been frustrated that so many of the models I’ve read seem best suited to help UX teams think about their own evolution and growth.  Either the complexity or the language make them by UX and for UX.  Very few of them seem accessible enough for an executive audience, and particularly ones who may not be familiar with UX.   Maturity Models from the CX field seem to be more accessible and executive-ready, which in and of itself is a lesson for UXers.

In the end, I ended up writing one that seems to be effective with the executives stakeholders and customers I work with ever day.  It meets the very specific needs that I have with my audience(s), but I’d love to know what others think.

Before I share it, I thought it might be worthwhile to review some of the others I’ve collected over the years, what I liked about them, and a brief statement about why they didn’t work for what I was trying to accomplish.

Design Maturity Stages

Design Maturity.png

This was originally published in Ambidextrous magazine’s ‘Nearly Winter 2006’ issue, in an essay entitled Investing in design: To build business buy-in, designers need to buy in to business, by Rosa Wu and Jess McCullin.  I like it for many reasons, and in fact the shift from style to problem solving / framing echoes some of what is coming out of DMI-influenced organizations in Europe in the past few years.  Interestingly, many of the more recent models put the least mature state on the bottom, but that’s not the case here.  Although I was thrilled to find it at the time, I am not sure these dimensions would be easy to use in an executive conversation.

Jonathan Earthy’s Usability Maturity Scale

Earthy Usability Maturity.pngI like the simplicity of this one.  I have found it valuable when thinking about the maturity of my own team, or helping a client think about their own internal capability building.  It describes the behaviors present at each stage, but it’s missing some of the depth present in the next few models – notably some idea of how to move through the various levels, and how to have those conversations outside the UX team.

Jakob Neilsen’s Corporate Usability Maturity

Nielsen's Usability Maturity Model.jpg

Neilsen’s model makes a lot of important points about the maturity of UX services, and also of the organization as a whole.  I think it is a great reference for practitioners, but, ironically, it is just way too complicated for any group except perhaps a UX leadership team.  You can read about the different dimensions on the Norman Neilsen Group (NNG) website – Stages 1-4 and Stages 5-8.

One of the things that is useful and unique to this model (but a tough reality check) is the number of years that it takes to progress; Neilsen says it can take years to move through the stages – as long as 20 years to get to the final stages of maturity.  He says a company can “remain hostile to usability for decades” and that oftentimes it’s only a crisis that creates the impetus for change.

Forrester’s Experience-Based Differentiation

Forrester - CX Matters.png

Forrester (an analyst group) has been writing more about Customer Experience (CX) in the past few years, and more recently they have been writing about User Experience (UX) as well.  I have some concerns with how they describe the relationship between the two, which I wrote about in this blog entitled UX is not a subset of CX.

This blog post describes the Forrester levels depicted above in more detail.

Early in my career at ZS, I helped the Chief Technology Officer establish a business case for and build a T2 Technical Support team.  The goal was to improve the experience of both clients and internal teams receiving support for our software, while at the same time relieving engineers of the support responsibilities that were distracting from their core work.  We used a Lean approach, which (as I’ve written about before) has a lot in common with UX; we started with customer touchpoints and worked backwards from there to address the most relevant processes first.

As part of building the business case for our approach, I created my own, simplified version of the Forrester model, which I think could just as easily be used for UX:


What I like about the Forrester model is that the title and stages are described in terms that are easy to understand, and less complicated than Neilsen’s.  While it is not prescriptive in terms of how to move between stages, it does provide some good detail about the key activities in each stage.

The Journey to a Customer-Centric Business, by Infosys


In an article entitled The Journey to a Customer-Centric Business, Infosys describes the stages of customer-centric maturity, as summarized above.  I like this one because the levels (and the behaviors at each stage) are simple and clear to a business audience.  I think the leap from ‘Heard’ to ‘Understood’ is pretty huge, though, and would be a challenging one for any organization to make.  Finally, I think the tie to Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the final stage is useful (because of it’s familiarity to business executives) but also limiting, as there are many cases in the Enterprise UX space where NPS doesn’t make sense.

Indicators of UX Maturity, by Macadamian


I have used this scale with a few clients who are thinking about building their own UX capability.  It has the simplicity of the Forrester framework, and keeps the main action areas relatively simple but specific.   My main reservation with this one is that it doesn’t impart the clarity and urgency about why you want or need the organization to move between stages.  You can read more about their model here, if you’re interested.

Design Management Institute (DMI)’s Design Maturity Matrix

DMI - Level 1 & 2.pngDMI - Level 3.png

A few years ago I took a course from DMI, and this was provided as part of the course materials.  I agree with the general framing, and the focus on process is also good.  I think this could be a very useful tool for discussion within a UX leadership team.  But it is not crisp, clear, or simple enough for an executive audience.  That means someone still needs to do a translation or repackaging to communicate these ideas up and/or out.

Danish Design Centre (DDC)’s Design Ladder

Design Ladder.jpg

In the past few years there has been some interesting writing coming out of the UX community in Europe.  This simple framework described in this DDC article is one of my favorites, and in fact strongly influenced the one that I’ve written and will share in my next post.

Maturity Models on UX Matters


Yury Vetrov has written a five-part series about UX maturity and Maturity Models on UX Matters.  He makes a number of good points that should benefit teams trying to figure out where and how to go next.  This feels more like a framework for operational maturity than it does a UX-specific one.  And, the five part series would definitely need to be distilled before it could inform an executive conversation.

Seductive Interaction Design

Seductive Interaction Design.png

I’ve seen a number of different models like this, which build on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  I have not read Stephen P. Anderson’s book (entitled Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences).  The graphic above from Sara Soueidan‘s website is supposed to be a ‘product maturity continuum’, but to me it really only makes sense for UX professionals and the internal teams they work with, such as product management and front-end development.  I might use something like this to help a client make a decision whether the goals for their website or application are aspirational enough.  Generally, I feel like this includes consumable ideas, but it is mostly targeted at UX professionals talking within their community.

Artefact’s Design Maturity Survey

I just recently discovered the work of Artefact.  They have developed a survey instrument to help companies assess their design maturity along five dimensions – empathy, mastery, character, performance, and impact.  I am planning to take the survey this quarter, and if I learn anything perhaps I’ll post again.  I am hoping their survey might help me reflect on the team I’m building, and perhaps help me engage in new ways with clients to whom we are providing UX consulting services.

In closing

These different frameworks have informed my own thinking about who my audience is, what I am trying to impart to them.  It’s clear to me that my audience is executives who are not necessarily deeply knowledgeable about the field of User Experience, or the value it can bring to business when engaged effectively.  In my next post I will share my attempt at a maturity model – this one targeted at buyers of UX services, or executives who need to understand enough to champion the strategic growth of UX in their own organizations.

20 Comments on “UX Maturity Models – A Collection”

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  5. Based on the long-existing models that you mentioned, we also created a UX maturity model so we can improve the collaboration with our clients.

    We established 3 stages: 1. Interested 2. Engaged 3. Core integrated. Furthermore we can divide these stages into 2 cases: when you are the only UX team working on a project, or you are part of a bigger team – these are two very different situations.

    Regarding the zero level: we believe in this phase companies are rather hostile towards UX.

    Here you can read more about our model: https://uxstudioteam.com/ux-blog/ux-maturity-model/

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