What is a UX maturity model?

Summary: A UX Maturity model serves as a framework to steer the comprehension of how your organization is progressing to find value through UX. The UX maturity model can provide growth pointers and traps to avoid.

A UX Maturity Model is a framework that delineates the evolutionary stages an organization goes through in embracing and implementing UX principles. This model furnishes an organizational ‘roadmap’ for growth, from an initial grounding in minimal UX awareness to achieving a user-centered enterprise. However, maturity models (including the one you’ll find below) may be interesting but not always practical- they have their pros and cons.

See Pros and Cons of UX Maturity Models 

Stages of UX maturity

This lifecycle model, developed in 2006 by Frank Spillers, CEO of Experience Dynamics, shows maturity as a lifecycle. Growth falling within the range from the Align stage to the Peak stage is categorized as “Establishing” growth. Conversely, growth progressing from the Peak stage toward the User-Centered Enterprise stage is termed “Established” growth. The specific details of each stage are provided below.

ux maturity model lifecycle

The Establishing Growth Stages

Stage 1: UX Grounded

In the initial stage, UX might be a foreign term for many organizations. Notably, there is a limited awareness of UX, and the concept often encounters skepticism or indifference. Typically, only a major design catastrophe or competitive pressure compels the organization to consider UX improvements. The notion of “just doing something” to address UX issues takes root, predominantly driven by external factors rather than an intrinsic desire to enhance user experience.

Stage 2: Kick-off

As the organization recognizes the significance of UX, it takes the initiative by hiring a UX person or consultant. However, while initial successes are achieved, a well-defined roadmap is missing. The CEO or management sets the direction for UX improvement without a clear strategy in place. Despite the lack of a roadmap, the organization intends to enhance user experience.

Stage 3: Skunkworks

During this phase, the organization engages in one-off UX projects with varying degrees of success. Usability becomes a point of contention between the UX professional and the rest of the team, particularly the developer-driven factions. Moreover, the UX person’s full potential remains untapped, and there is a tendency to underestimate the value they bring. Consequently, this situation can lead to a “wheel spinning” scenario, wherein isolated UX efforts yield results, yet organization-wide success remains elusive.

Stage 4: Align

At this stage, project teams actively integrate UX processes, enabling them to triage needs effectively. Simultaneously, UX training becomes a regular activity, fostering both the UX team’s professional growth and the wider team’s heightened UX awareness. Wireframes and usability testing also take center stage, leading to consistent successes. However, the looming “slash and burn” trap involves stretching UX resources thin due to numerous demands, potentially leading to burnout.

—–Anything up to this stage and into Peak is considered “emerging UX” or Establishing growth—–

Stage 5: Peak

Regular UX activities are operationalized, with a dedicated budget competing for resources alongside other priorities. A UX Manager or Director emerges as a pivotal figure with a defined charter and cross-organizational visibility. The acquisition of User Researchers and a regular practise of Ethnography and user testing enhances the UX toolkit. While usability testing remains vital, Ethnographic field studies gains prominence, yielding strategic insights. The UX team’s findings are eagerly sought after, and a culture of doing more with less takes root.

—–Anything including and beyond this stage toward User-Centered Enterprise is considered “emerged UX” or Established growth—–

The Established Growth Stages

Stage 6: Culture

UX transforms into an organization-wide adoption underpinned by a dedicated budget and an empowered team. The UX Director or Chief Experience Officer champions UX at management levels, aligning efforts with wider ROI goals. A repeat culture of insights drives the complete Human-Centered Design process. Consistent user research with well-developed personas and journey maps flourishes alongside regular user testing. This stage marks a transition to a proactive, strategic approach, where UX shapes designs and Agile Scrums in real-time. You achieve a UX culture when it seems that decisions are led by users or that a transformation driven by users has taken place.

See: What is a User-led transformation?

Stage 7: User-Centered Enterprise

At this stage of UX maturity, the organization embraces UX and integrates it systematically across the enterprise. UX becomes synonymous with innovation and is tactically and strategically acknowledged by teams and senior management. User research and data no longer remain tactical tools; they guide the organization’s project pursuits. UX permeates all touchpoints at this stage, giving the company a leadership reputation for user-friendly interfaces.


The journey from weak UX to performing at “Peak” and beyond is transformational, with distinct stages and challenges. This UX Maturity Model offers a ‘roadmap’ to navigate this evolution and grow a culture that values and prioritizes user experience. By understanding the stages, you can avoid growth traps and accelerate your company’s journey toward better UX maturity.

Need help improving UX maturity? See our UX Transformation Organizational consulting service.

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