A discipline for designers: product designer on why metrics matter

Grab firsthand advice on implementing and tracking product metrics for designers, plus two handy frameworks for hypotheses and design tasks.

Readymag blog_product designer on why metrics matter

Despite data-driven methods gaining currency over the last decade, there’s still much to explore in the connection between information and creative expression. To get deeper into the topic, we invited Natalia Treskova, a Senior Product Designer at Vivid Money, a Berlin-based fintech startup, to guest-write this article. She’s been working in fintech for startups and enterprises for over 5 years, exploring the synergy between business and beauty that underpins complex fintech services. Here, Treskova shares her thoughts and outlines the subtleties of product metrics to help designers tame their data for good.

Why designers should understand how metrics work

Metrics show whether your design solution is successful

As designers, we must understand which design instruments work and which don’t. Otherwise, we risk wasting time on useless experiments when we might already have enough data not to make the same mistakes.

I came across an example on Linkedin: a product tracked time spent on a particular screen as the key metric for its application. After implementing some product updates, the time spent on the screen has grown, but the reason wasn’t better user satisfaction. It appeared to be an error on the backend, which made the screen load with a timeout.

This false impression illustrates the fact that metrics can be misleading without correct interpretation. Even so, it’s better to gather data first and make conclusions based on statistics or real-life expertise later. I advise an activity you will be thankful for later: maintain an up-to-date knowledge base where you document results and organize insights.

Metrics help you reuse good design solutions

If we understand why certain design solutions work better, we can reuse them. At one of my previous workplaces, we created a base of UX patterns in Figma. There were some basic patterns like success screens for all possible flows in the interface and more complex flows like New Product Applications templates. This base helped designers save time and maintain consistency across products.

Metrics make design sound louder in your company

When I talk about UI consistency with people not involved in design work, they often don’t understand why consistency is essential. But if I explain that UI consistency reduces the time teams spend discussing and creating design, they become more interested.

Anyway, UX patterns aren’t set limits that designers can never go beyond. A McKinsey Global Institute report on the business value of design is another argument for treating design as an important part of business processes. It reveals a strong correlation between “good design” and great business performance.

How to add metrics to hypotheses

If you want to explore the business impact of your design work more precisely, you can incorporate formal metrics in the text of your product hypotheses.

Designers should communicate closely with product managers or clients to formulate product hypotheses. In most cases, designers might not have enough information to decide on hypotheses.

Here’s an example: product managers see that most users leave the onboarding process in the middle. Managers come to designers to figure out what can be done to elevate conversion, and form a hypothesis together: if we reduce the number of steps from 8 to 5, the final conversion will grow by 30% in 2 months.

This formula consists of the following elements:

Changes. We’re changing the number of steps, but the changes can not only deal with design. The business logic and the number of steps are tightly connected, and we can’t separate them. However, we need to write down the product changes for this part of the hypothesis.

Indicator of success. What will be considered a success? Will a 30% conversion be a success? And what about 29%? There is always an indicator of success. It’s doubtful that a company decides to spend time and money on developing something it doesn’t need. To find out this indicator, you need to talk to product managers.

Deadlines. When will you stop the experiment and check the metrics?

Why metrics implementation is a teamwork

Typically, product managers and analysts work on metrics most of all. A product manager can share profound details about the value of a metric for business and the overall strategy, while an analyst can show how product dashboards work and how product experiments are technically organized. Product designers also work with metrics but are more like observers. Product managers know why and how certain metrics appear the way they do, and designers know just the values and see them as guidelines in work. However, a designer is the person who gets the closest to users and helps to bring business value and user satisfaction together.

If you feel that you don’t understand the reasoning behind a task, go to your manager and ask questions. Of course, some managers might not be used to explaining metrics goals to designers. In this case, there is no magic pill: the best thing you can do is to explain why you need this information for work and never cease asking questions until you get an answer you can bring to your work.

How to create design task templates

If the work you’re taking in is extensive and complex, implement a template for the design tasks in a task management tracker and fill it out with your product manager or client before the work starts. It will help everyone involved to understand why and how you will change the current user flow. Here’s what should be in the template:

Summary of client needs. Here, you should include user stories or Jobs to be done. Adopting user-centered frameworks from the beginning helps generate the correct product hypotheses later.

Metrics with deadlines. How will you understand that the result is successful and you can proceed with the next task? To get this information, you will need to ask the product manager or the client.

Hypotheses. Write down a list of product hypotheses. If you can match each hypothesis with one metric—that’s great. If you can’t, don’t focus on it.

Additional artifacts. Chip in customer journey maps, personas, analytics, etc. The more relevant data you collect in the task, the more valuable insights you will get later.

Do metrics kill design quality?

Metrics form a sort of discipline for designers. Design isn’t art without limits; it has to accomplish something. Design must help both users solve their tasks and products become more efficient. You can’t choose only one side. I’ve never seen a design considered “bad” because it took metrics into account.

To affect the world through product design, we, designers, should take other people’s feedback into account in our processes, and to help the products we work for grow, combine it with product needs.

This combo approach doesn’t mean that a designer is just an algorithm that analyses incoming information. In most cases, designers are hired to bring their fresh and unique perspectives to the table, express their opinions, argue, and don’t agree with everyone. Product teams need designers because of our killer feature: the ability to bring aesthetics, user needs, and business metrics together.