How do we measure design?

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For design to have the greatest impact on a business, it must be held to account.

To measure the value of design work, we need to establish frameworks that promote objective assessment over the opinion of whoever happens to be the most dominant person in the room.

We can start by introducing a measurement structure across the whole customer experience — allowing both for broader analysis and for the ability to drill down into specific touch-points or moments in real time. This irrefutable information creates an objective platform for the conversation among c-suite and practitioners when judging a product or service.

Measuring success

To implement any measurement structure, we must first look at the overarching business goal for a project: what exactly are we trying to achieve and over what time-frame? And what does success look like? 

Once the desired outcome is established and agreed, it’s then possible to define the Objectives and Key Results that allow us to know when we’ve achieved this outcome. And the foundations for objectivity are laid.

It’s all in the balance

When we look at the complete customer journey, it can be challenging to know the correct altitude to apply measurements that lead to actionable outcomes. Too granular and we’re swimming in a sea of data points, unable to see what affects the bigger picture. Too broad and we risk having a singular metric against which it’s impossible to effectively take action. The key — as in all things — is balance.

Getting the balance right means the sponsor/owner can evaluate progress at a glance, and teams are able to act — both safe in the knowledge that all actions ladder up to the overall business goals.

At ELSE, we’ve found that breaking the overall customer experience into “missions” gives us this ideal altitude. Missions shift a user’s state within the overall customer journey. When we focus on changes happening at a mission level, we can clearly see how parts of the overall customer experience are performing. And it becomes much easier to highlight any tangible effects that changes or testing are having.

This allows us to drill down and understand the details of specific journey moments, or review the phase against regions, channels or internal departments. And, importantly, it gives us the ability to compare different phases against each other — for instance, we may be delivering the best onboarding experience and driving new customers in, but are there problems further on in the funnel that need greater attention.

Individual measurements

There is no one way to define what success looks like. Metrics will vary from experience to experience, from business to business, and according to defined customer outcomes. But it’s worth keeping in mind whether all journeys, and phases within those journeys, hold the same weight.

We need to understand the variables in the answers to these two questions so we can successfully compare our data. When we put in place a set of metrics that delivers comparable, correctly weighted measurements, we’re able to link specific moments into phases and up to the overarching goals — connecting all metrics across all stages of the customer journey. 

In all this, there’s no substitute for live metrics. But, in the absence of live metrics, we recommend establishing a review cadence that regularly and consistently reviews the impact of any changes. 

Where do we start

For any phasing and measuring points to have any relevance, it’s vital to have detailed knowledge of the current state of things — where are we today? And how far away are we from our defined goals?

The process of gaining this kind of self-knowledge has potential to reveal areas for future focus for every business — including where we are underperforming, or any missing elements in the current experience. It’s also key to benchmark against the wider industry — keeping your product’s performance in context of the competition. 

Maintaining your edge

At ELSE, we’ve seen time and again the long-term value for our clients in objective measurement of the design process. Simply put, it helps everyone to understand what’s working, and what needs to improve.

We encourage clients to move away from looking solely at transactional moments, or specific touch-points, which can often be misleading where the issue really lies. By looking at the customer journey at a phase level, we allow for broad analysis of the overall experience, without getting bogged down by all the details. But the detail is available when it’s needed.