Measurement is a no-brainer. It helps form the bedrock of iterative design and development cycles, but more often than not it is dismissed by project teams right across the digital sector. It is usually perceived as complex and laborious. That said, it doesn’t have to be – not if its advantages are well understood and aspired to from the get-go.
To that end, we bake measurement into every project we work on, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Projects come in all shapes and sizes, which means that each measurement framework we devise is bespoke and aligned to unique success markers.
If your framework focuses on the wrong areas or is without commitment from the entire project team, there’s every chance your product will fall short of and fail to meet your customers’ needs.
In this article, I’ll explain how to establish a measurement framework in three simple steps, so you’re able to track the effectiveness of your design outputs and serve an experience which goes the extra mile for customers.
Start with the problem statement
Before you get into the detail of choosing metrics and setting targets, you should write a problem statement. It’s a simple articulation of what your team is being asked to do.
By writing and agreeing on a problem statement, you’re making sure everyone is on the same page before you start going into the details. It’s surprisingly common for team members to start a project with different ideas of what they want to achieve, and without agreement you can get stuck when working out the details of the measurement framework. Don’t worry if the statement feels imprecise, you can flesh it out later on.
Identify the type of impact you’re creating
What counts as success in each project you do will vary. Every project you do has a direct or indirect impact on business outcomes, but how you measure that impact will be different.
The success of a project doesn’t have to be measured by an end goal like increased sales, cost reduction and the like. If you’re creating personas, success means that they’re being used, they’re visible and they’re still relevant in more than six months’ time.
To help us understand what type of impact our work creates (and therefore what type of things to measure), we next need to identify the right measure.
Every project will impact one or more of the following:
- The experience people get. Projects in this category seek to improve the product and service that people are using. Changes here directly impact business outcomes like sales and customer service enquiries.
- Execution against the plan. Projects in this category seek to improve how a business makes decisions about customer experience and how it changes it using design and technology. Example projects include upskilling team members, introducing a design system or creating a set of personas. There isn’t a direct impact on business outcomes.
- Business strategy and plan. Projects in this category seek to improve the priorities of the business and influence what time, resource and budget is spent on. Examples would be creating a mobile app strategy or a proof-of-concept for a new proposition. This work doesn’t create a direct impact on business outcomes.
Once you know what type of project you’re doing, then you can move on to creating a more detailed measurement framework.
Fill out the measurement framework
Now create a detailed plan for what you want to measure and how you’re going to measure it. This should encompass the following:
- Outcome. The first step is to identify the high-level outcomes that your work is trying to achieve. I recommend you do this first, before moving on to the other columns in the table. Remember that you want to measure how effective your work is, not create a list of every possible metric for the user experience.
- Signal. Once you have all of your outcomes, then you need to define how you will know that the outcome has been achieved. It’s common to have more than one, especially if the outcome is ambiguous (eg ’increase engagement’).
- Today it is… If you have a signal that is easily measured, then make sure you put a timespan on it (eg £1.5m sales in the last 12 months). If the signal has never been measured or is not applicable, that’s OK too.
- Our target. We deliberately split this into two parts to avoid the fear that comes with setting a single target: ’What if I don’t make the target?’ In our framework (referenced below), ’is at least’ is a number below which you would be disappointed and ’our aspiration’ is a number above which the project would be hailed as a success.
- By when. Every target needs to be time-bound. In this overly simplistic example, we’ve given ourselves a year, but in reality you would probably have a much shorter amount of time to determine if the redesign was a success or not.
- Data source. You need to make sure you know who to ask for the data or what system to look in. If the data isn’t currently tracked, you’ll need to make a plan for how it will be tracked so that you can collect the results later.
- Result. Once the results are in, record them and (hopefully) celebrate the impact of your work!
Wrapping up: measurement doesn’t need to be hard
While the largest projects need a more sophisticated approach, there’s always value in starting with filling out a simple worksheet. Having such a limited framework makes you focus on what’s really important and prevents you from jumping straight into Excel and listing dozens of metrics that you could track.
Measurement is absolutely fraught with misconceptions. There’s a strong industry belief that measurement can only be applied to bigger projects, that it’s too difficult and expensive. The truth is, everything you need to do to track the effectiveness of your design work can be represented on a page, and that makes it feel much more achievable.
To help you on your way, we’ve created a one-page measurement framework which can be used on any experience design project, big or small. You can download it here.
Phil Morton is the experience design director at Foolproof.