I was a designer fresh out of college. In the past week, I had worked on some designs that I thought would drastically improve the experience of a webpage and I was about to pitch the idea to the stakeholders.
Of course, I was nervous because I was representing the UX team and this would be one of the first times where I was officially trying to convince others to go forth with my work.
As I present my work in front of the team, I list all the reasons why the new design would outperform the current one and how users would find it to be a better experience. However, in the midst of my explanation, a person cuts me off with a question that can truly sting:
“How do you know this design will help us achieve our business goals?”
Admittedly, I was rather dumbfounded. Didn’t I just list all the reasons why the design would be better? I try to recollect myself and reiterate some of the previous points, but it was obvious that the stakeholders weren’t buying it.
My arguments were baseless and seemingly stemmed from nothing but my opinions on aesthetics. I walked out of that meeting feeling defeated and embarrassed, but I learned something crucial:
I need to have data to back up my design choices in order to show the effectiveness of my work.
The Importance of Data in UX
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what UX is. Ask ten different designers and you’ll probably get ten different answers. Regardless, I would argue that UX is data-driven problem-solving.
Without any research or data collection, we’re essentially reduced to making things look pretty—like an artist that is expressing themselves through different media.
Let’s dive into some reasons why being data-driven will fundamentally improve your design sense and help you make more educated choices that can help stakeholders see the value of your work:
- Data helps define the problems you are solving for.
Collecting data from customer feedback, the analytics team, or from doing your own research enables you to notice any repeating trends in what the users are struggling with as well as why some business goals are not being met. The root of the issues will be easier to identify and it can help establish what your designs need to account for in future iterations.
- Data helps you measure the success—or failure—of designs.
UX designers can also use data as a way to measure the performance of certain designs. Rather than making the mistake of using personal opinions and theories to back your designs, you now have hard data to show why a certain approach may be more effective than another. This can be evaluated through user tests or an A/B test to compare and contrast a new design versus an older one.
Data aids you in showing others the value of your work.
Lastly, data is a fantastic way to show the ROI of design within an organization. The truth is that during your journey as a UX designer, you’ll encounter people in positions of leadership who may not truly understand why UX is important and it could be your responsibility to enlighten them. This may include uphill battles and data will be your shining light because no one can argue against numbers!
Ways to Implement Data-Driven Design into Your Work
All right, let’s get into the meat of it all. You now understand how data can aid you in your journey. But where should we begin to add data-driven processes? It will depend on how your organization is structured, but here are some practical ways to get started:
- Establish metrics of success to watch out for.
What is the definition of success in your designs? Your business? This will be good to keep in the back of your mind when designing things. The impact of your designs on these metrics can help you determine if you’re moving in the right direction or not. For example, a universal metric of success for e-commerce platforms is the conversion rate of customers visiting their website and purchasing a product. Keeping an eye on what happens to this when you introduce a new checkout experience can shed some light on the implications of your work.
- Use A/B tests to get some comparison between different ideas.
I’ve mentioned this above, but A/B tests are a great way to obtain data if you’re trying to see which design performs better. You’re able to compare and contrast ideas to see what is working and what isn’t, and furthers the refinement of your work. Make sure you are tracking the same points of interest or tasks consistently to ensure a 1:1 comparison.
Include data whenever you’re conducting user tests.
Additionally, frame your user tests in manners that make it easy to glean data from the results for sharing with the rest of your team. A simple way to make your tests more data-driven is to ask your users to rate the difficulty or clarity of tasks for them to complete and then track the number of people rating it at each specific level. You can then compile all the numbers into really awesome statements, such as, “Seven out of ten users rated the clarity of this screen as very unclear.”
Let Your Data do the Hard Work for You
Some time had passed after the debacle of my design pitch. It took some time to overcome my fears of looking ill-prepared again, but this time I knew it was different. I was asked to come up with a new and improved promotion banner for some of our products on the cart page.
I spent a couple of weeks ideating and testing designs. Eventually, I felt confident in knowing which design was the right choice due to all the data I had gathered.
In my pitch, I talked about how a certain number of users found the control experience to be unclear and showed graphs and charts of what users were rating the experience. The new experience showed a drastic improvement.
Judging from the silence in the room, the stakeholders did not disagree with what I had shown. We were all in agreement with the direction we needed to take. This time, I nailed it.
Let your data do the talking.
About the Author
Associate Product Designer
University of Michigan, ‘17.
I’m just a guy who designs things. I also like to play the bass guitar.