Good Design is good for business

Companies that invest in Design obtain the benefits:

  • - Industrywide studies have quantified the financial benefits of Design — Firms that prioritize Design get significant rewards, such as increased loyalty and higher revenues. And this isn’t only true for large corporations — many of the most successful startups prioritize and excel at Design.

  • U.S. Bank earned a 40% increase in market share as a collateralized loan obligation (CLO) trustee in the first year after launching a web-based self-service tool called “Pivot” that is designed to help CLO issuers and investors track their deals.

  • PayPal with the design initiative of improving the clarity of content at international checkout by removing jargon and legal terminology was able to significantly increase in conversion and revenue as customers better understand their options regarding PayPal for foreign exchange services. And this is just two of many examples of how Design has an impact on both new product creation and improvements to existing products.

Quantifying The Benefits Helps Design Teams Advance Their Work

Design leaders who overcome the attitude that “design shouldn’t have to prove its value” set themselves and their teams up for success and are more able to:

  • - Get UX improvements prioritized — Companies must fix problems that make it harder than necessary for customers to accomplish their goals. But many firms treat these fixes as “enhancements” instead of prioritizing them as defects, so they languish in the backlog. After fixing the 100 minor visual issues, Kaaren Hanson socialized the story of the statistically significant revenue lift at Facebook.

  • - Elevate the design team’s impact and reach — Getting involved and taken seriously in business conversations begins with educating partners on the influence the design team has had on company successes. Nationwide’s in-house UX team finds that communicating its accomplishments to the firm’s multiple business units helps motivate these colleagues to tap the in-house team rather than turn to an external provider when the need for design expertise arises.

  • - Keep the design team aligned with its customer-centric purpose — Mastering design measurement helps the design team know that: 1) it’s achieving its goal of increasing customer centricity; 2) it’s having a positive impact on the people it serves; 3) the specific research and design practices it has put in place are yielding better experiences. It also helps individual designers see how their work contributes to the company’s success.

  • - Get funding to grow the design practice — Smart design leaders anticipate and plan for future needs by crafting a compelling story about why the company can’t afford not to invest in Design. The cost of learning late in development that a part doesn’t fit right in the equipment because it was poorly designed is very high.

But Most Design Leaders Struggle To Quantify Design’s Benefits

While just about every design leader concedes that measuring Design’s impact is essential, few have figured out a reliable way of doing it. Quantifying the effect of Design is not an impossible challenge. It starts with five fundamental practices that design leaders should adopt:

1. Obsess about understanding your stakeholders

- Ask more questions and immerse yourself in what matters to the business — Design doesn’t own a revenue stream, so it should align with the metrics the company uses to measure success. To understand what those are, ask colleagues questions like: “What is your objective? Is it growth? Retaining customers? Reducing costs? Something else?” Then, ask how else the business measures success.

- Develop fluency in the language of business — Some designers fear asking business-related questions because they lack business savvy. Build the team’s confidence by teaching members about business vocabulary and performance.

- Apply your research methods to understand what drives value for the business — Design teams need to “remix their craft” by applying proven design methods to understanding not only customers but also colleagues.

- Understand stakeholders’ different cultural styles — Though stakeholders may share common goals for driving value for the business, the approaches they take to get their background shapes there. Designers who understand these cultural differences do better at working with and winning over their colleagues.

2. Focus first on goals, not metrics

- Answer the question, what are we trying to achieve here? — Engage with business and product partners to first identify the goals for their projects and initiatives.

- Then define metrics that will gauge whether you’ve achieved the goal — If the goal is to drive leads through the website, focus on how many visitors fill out the lead form. If it’s to reduce contact centre costs, focus on how many customers opt to self-serve via the website instead of calling in.

3. Know what makes a useful metric

- Meaningful — A useful metric is one that the business, not just the design team, actually cares about. Avoid metrics like “delight”, instead, favour metrics that have a broader appeal because they concretely answer the question, “Are we hitting our objectives?”

- Easy to understand — Look for useful metrics that someone in your organization is already measuring or for which data is readily available, like basic analytics, so they’re simple to access, monitor, and confidently speak to.

- Tethered to business outcomes — Executives will ignore you if your design metrics don’t connect to business metrics, so you’ll struggle to achieve the intended benefits.

4. Don’t go at it alone

- Learn from other disciplines — Measuring and communicating impact may be new territory for designers, but it’s a common practice in many different fields. Learn from those who have gone before you.

- Form partnerships with data scientists and finance pros — Connecting the data science and design worlds is critical for creating successful data-fueled products but also for successful design measurement.

5. Use your design superpowers to bring the numbers to life

- Use storytelling to communicate results — Create a story that is simple and powerful so stakeholders can spread it for you. How? Weave together the hard results (numbers) with the impact that they had on customers. Do this by translating metrics back into human impact. Instead of “churn rate,” for example, talk about how the company lost 352 customers last month. And bring the numbers to life!

- Bring results to life through perspective-shifting experiences — Go beyond just telling these stories: Show them immersively.

It’s time to get your hands dirty!

The rewards awaiting design teams that start measuring Design are substantial. Here’s how to do it:

- Now: Adopt all five best practices of design measurement — Do you need to empathize with your stakeholders and their goals? Start by selecting one key stakeholder and choosing methods you can apply to understand their objectives and priorities. Do you have proof points of Design’s impact but without the right way to communicate them powerfully? Pick one result and work as a team to visualize the process and techniques — like showing mockups of how the Design evolved based on user feedback — that got you to the solution that led to that impact.

- Next: Systematize your design measurement practice — You can do this in three phases: 1) Establish your proof of concept; 2) extend by increasing rigour, cadence, and skills; and 3) elevate broader impacts and celebrate successes.

- Later: Reinforce the best practices continuously — Even after systematize your design practice, it’s essential to stick with the five best practices — and to deepen the ways you apply them continually.

Based on “The Business Impact Of Design: Five Best Practices For Measuring It, A Design Impact Series Report”; May 14, 2020; By Forrester