Using Data to Design
Do you often use your gut feeling when it comes to making decisions? Ever catch yourself believing that a particular button color will convert users into leads? Instead of relying on your gut feeling, consider taking a data-driven approach to design.
Using data to design is an objective way to answering your questions and guiding you to the right solution. Data can eliminate assumptions and validate your decisions. At the right stage, it can even help you identify issues with the design prior to implementation—saving you from costly development rework.
Two Types of Data
There are two types of data: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative data are measurable metrics, such as pageview count, dwell time, and conversion rate. In contrast, qualitative data are non-numerical and cannot be measured, such as observations, feelings, and opinions.
Quantitative data shows you the numbers and qualitative data tells you why. Both have their place, but the best design solutions result from both types of data. In this article, I will discuss how you can leverage data to make smarter design decisions.
How You Can Leverage Data to Inform Your Design
One of the first applications for using data in design is developing a persona, or a representation of your primary user. Personas are essential to the user experience design process because they remind teams to align their work for the user instead of themselves.
Where are your users located? What are your users’ motivations for turning to your product or service? How does your business fit in with their higher-level goals? Pairing demographic information from a data analytics tool with one-on-one user interviews will reveal the type of person who will be using your product or service.
A redesign can help increase your conversion rates when done right. While you may be dreaming up a completely new design, you should first take stock of your existing content.
If you have a database, you could ask your programmer to create a client-facing page where you can filter and sort the data yourself. You might find that a majority of your images are smaller than 1200px wide. Unless you plan to obtain larger images, a design that incorporates full-width heroes may not be feasible. Taking inventory of your existing data will help you determine the layouts that can work for the redesign and, more importantly, ones that won’t.
Every website will have these standard pages: Home, About, Services and/or Products, and Contact. However, websites with hundreds of pages, such as ecommerce and editorial sites, demand second-level and third-level navigations. Where do you even begin to decide which pages to include?
Taking a look into your data analytics tool, you can sort pages by pageview count and bounce rate. If you have a search bar on your website, pulling up the top search terms may show you the pages most important to your users that they cannot easily find from your navigation.
Data analytics tools will show you your top pages, but it won’t tell you how to organize them. Should “refrigerator” be under the Kitchen category, or would it make more sense under Appliances? Conducting a card sorting exercise with your users can help you make that call.
During a card sorting exercise, you write down one term or topic per card. Once there’s a card for every term, users organize those cards into groups that they label. For a navigation, those group labels can serve as your categories and the cards under those categories are the pages you would include.
All too often, marketing websites are filled with business jargon that no one else outside of the company or a marketing department would understand. When your copy does not resonate with your users, they won’t know what you’re selling.
Talking to your customer support or sales team will help you determine the terms your target audience use to describe your product or service. This data can contribute to higher converting landing pages, clearer labels, and helpful tooltips.
Why are your users dropping off? Why do they keep asking the same question? Developing a customer journey map will help you identify areas of friction.
Customer journey maps illustrate the steps your users take to complete a task. For each step, you also include the emotion your user may be experiencing. The result of this data surfaces missed opportunities and a direction for where your efforts should be focused on next.
Data-driven design keeps your gut feeling in check, frees your work from bias, and produces results that better serve your users. When working with data, there’s always the potential to skew it, so remember to avoid leading questions during user research and to extract insights that will only guide you to build better user experiences.