Your Necessary First Step to Creating Powerful UX Metrics

by Jared M. Spool

When an organization’s leadership values design, it falls on UX design leaders to show how good design is continuing to deliver that value. And in organizations where the executive leadership doesn’t yet value design, UX team leaders need to show how much poor UX design is costing the organization.

Existing metrics probably won’t work

Design leaders who aren’t thinking strategically fall into a trap. When asked for some sort of UX metrics, they’ll use data and metrics the organization is already collecting.

Their organization is likely already measuring activity of their users, such as page views, button clicks, bounce rate, or conversion rate. They are likely collecting data from attitudinal surveys, like Net Promoter Score or customer satisfaction measures.

It’s tempting to use these measures, because their organizations are already collecting them. Unfortunately, these measures are usually unhelpful in telling the story of how the design benefits the users and the organization.

Knowing that a purchase was made doesn’t tell us anything about people coming to the site who aren’t quite ready to purchase. Knowing that someone said they might recommend the company doesn’t tell us if they felt they had no other choices for that company’s services.

It’s very tempting to use these metrics, but doing so frequently results in disappointment. That’s because changes in the data are often unrelated to the quality of the experience. And changes in the experience don’t result in changes in the data.

Existing data rarely tells the story the design leaders need to tell. These metrics measure, at best, outputs.

These UX metrics show activity in the design. They may occasionally show improvements in a few business metrics such as sales revenues or onboarding rates. However, the metrics won’t likely show if an improved design actually makes a difference to the customers or users.

Identifying UX metrics that tell the team’s story

In the workshop, we dive deep into better metrics. UX metrics that are mapped directly to what happens when we deliver well-designed products and services.

The first step is to determine the user experience outcomes the team is shooting for. Each UX outcome answers the question If we deliver a great design, how does it improve someone’s life?

The UX outcome is the end state we’re trying to achieve. Once we know our UX outcome, we can create key metrics detailing our journey getting there.

We can use our UX outcomes to choose the most powerful UX metrics. There are several categories of metrics we choose from. UX Success Metrics tell us the exact moment we’ve achieved our UX outcome. We use these metrics to report our accomplishments to our executives, in terms that show how our customers and users benefit from what we’ve delivered.

We can use Problem-Value Metrics to demonstrate how much poor design is costing our organization today. We’ll use the high costs of support and lost sales to motivate our executives into taking action, even when they don’t yet realize a better user experience will be the solution.

We’ll use Progress Metrics to put our product roadmap into perspective. These metrics demonstrate the progress tackling each roadmap item brings us towards our UX outcomes.

The necessary first step to creating powerful UX metrics

Before we can identify the right UX success, problem-value, and progress metrics, we must know what our key UX outcomes are. And the only way to know what our UX outcomes are is to spend serious time learning about our users and their challenges. For most teams, this will require they increase their UX research maturity.

The UX team’s research maturity drives how well the product and service teams understand their users and what they’re trying to accomplish. Teams without more mature research practices can’t get to the essential insights that drive that understanding.

If these teams are doing any UX research at all, it’s probably constrained to usability testing and surveys. Unfortunately, to craft the UX metrics that will have the power to persuade the executives into action, teams have to move beyond these starter methods.

These teams will need strategies to move to more proactive research. They’ll use techniques, like field studies and other ethnographic approaches, to dive deep into the lives and challenges of the people who use their products and services.

With a deep understanding of these challenges, UX design leaders easily gain alignment on the right UX outcomes. That alignment drives the identification of the key success, problem-value, and progress metrics the team will use. Now, design leaders have a way to communicate the increasing value of their teams’ efforts.

About the Author

Jared M. Spool is a co-founder of Center Centre and the founder of UIE. In 2016, with Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, he opened Center Centre, a new design school in Chattanooga, TN to create the next generation of industry-ready UX Designers. They created a revolutionary approach to vocational training, infusing Jared’s decades of UX experience with Leslie’s mastery of experience-based learning methodologies.

Strategic Approaches to UX Research

Intensive June 3-7, 2024 • Strategic UX Research is changing organizations. Get ready to change yours.

In five 90-minute sessions, explore how to connect your organization’s long-term direction and strategy directly to your customers’ and users’ deepest needs. Join us starting on June 3 and start leading your organization through this powerful, game-changing transformation.

Dive Into Our UX Research Intensive