Experience Design

Outcomes: The Business Value of Experience Design (Part 2 of 8)

Dartboard

This is the second in a series of blog posts sharing our study results on the business value of experience design. In this post, we explore the value of outcomes: ensuring that every user interaction builds and delivers on the business outcomes that the company is investing in.

As a kid, I was enthralled (like everyone around me) by the Star Wars universe. The heroes, the villains, and the adventure were great fun for everyone, and it is a phenomenon that is as strong today as it was then. But what really got me was the tech: the spaceships, the droids, the intergalactic battle stations. If I could have lived in that universe, I would have spent all my free time hanging out at Tosche Station and tinkering with DIY projects. But one of the most captivating cinematic details in the franchise is the attention paid to the control panels, user interfaces, and industrial design. They are sometimes complex, with hundreds of buttons, dials, and knobs doing who knows that. Other times they are ultra-sleek and sophisticated but for no apparent reason. The logic behind this mysterious mix of analog and digital never mattered. It doesn’t matter because it looks amazing!

Design without a user is just the process of creating something.

In the real world, products are designed for a purpose. They perform a function to solve problems for their users and make their lives better. In the real world, form follows function, which is to say that form (the aesthetics, the feel, the intangibles) also matters. In my last post in this series, I introduced the value of user empathy, which is fundamental to understanding how both form and function matter to product design. Building empathy reveals user needs and preferences so that designers can find the best way to deliver form and functionality.

Any product marketplace exists merely to bring companies and customers together for mutual benefit. Often that benefit is simply an economic one, but equally important are the holistic needs of connecting people, keeping communities running, and, yes, making the world a better place. There is no shortage of user problems, tasks, product features, and functions to explore, and product teams live to find new solutions. But too often, product teams become distracted by the thrill of a new user experience or the awe of new technological innovation to pause long enough to make sure it makes economic sense.

A leader without followers is just a person out on a walk.

Unfortunately, too many product teams are focused on the up-front work-at-hand. Budget and due date are critical, but only one dimension. Burn rate, project velocity, and defect rates tell us how the project is doing. Performance, scalability, and uptime tell us how the platform is doing. But all too often, product teams ignore the intended purpose and outcomes of the product itself. If we delivered on time and on budget, but nobody used it, we should question our career choices. Product owners have a responsibility to set product goals, and outcomes alongside product requirements and designers have an obligation to meet them.

Outcome-based experience design starts with empathy, but that empathy eventually needs to break down into intended outcomes that inform and govern the design process over the product’s lifetime. We believe in a few core, key metrics that work together to guide product teams.

Behavioral Metrics – what user actually do with their experience

  • Time on task – Understanding how long it takes users to complete a task is a good indication of how easy your product is to figure out and how easy – or frustrating – it is to use.
  • Task completion rate – Are users able to accomplish their tasks before finding some workaround or just giving up completely?
  • Conversion – What is the product’s success rate in getting users to accomplish certain desired tasks, like completing a form or checking out an order?
  • Order Value – Accomplished through several means, including price and promotion, and making it easy for users to discover products.
  • Retention – Do they come back for more? Sometime measured by recency (how long between visits) and frequency (how many times in a time period.)

Attitude Metrics – what customers feel and say about their experience

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a measure of how likely a customer or user will recommend your product to someone else.
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) – A simple percentage of users who have a positive experience.

Business Metrics – higher-level outcomes that support the overall business model

  • Sales revenue, new business, cross-sell, up-sell)
  • Leads generated
  • Appointment and reservations made.
  • Reduced support costs through customer self-service and call deflection

We strongly believe that a focus on both empathy and outcomes will produce a better product. And when those outcomes ladder up to business goals, experience design pays for itself in multiples.

One final lesson from Star Wars. Sure, they had magnificent user interfaces, but somewhere along the line, they shortcut the design process and left that exhaust port completely vulnerable. And that was a terrible outcome.

About the Author

Jim Hertzfeld is Principal and Chief Strategist for Perficient, and works with clients to make their customers and shareholders happy through insanely great digital experiences.

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