Measurable Design

“When I grow up, I want to use business insight and data analytics to form deeply useful experiences for customers.” That isn’t really something you hear many children tell their teachers, and it probably doesn’t sound all that glamorous to grown-ups, either.  

And yet, it was business insight and analytics that drove the Internet industry to exceeding  £121 billion in the UK alone last year. This growth is driven, in part, by businesses coming to grips with the measurability of customer needs and the ability to change with customer demands.  Crucially, digital advertising accounted for £4 billion of that sum, a revenue stream too large to be generated by sheer luck or coincidence.

Recently, in a piece for Campaign, Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland suggested the marketing industry “could do with a bit more hard science”—a sentiment brands increasingly share believe as they move their hard-pressed budgets into digital.

Back when people first cottoned on to the new internet marketing voodoo, they struggled to understand what value this new medium held for their company. Often, they relied on achievements such as winning awards to prove brand awareness and justify the expenditure on this new black art. “Keywords,” “web-hits,” and “clicks” became words uttered by marketing managers to creative types as brands went “digital.”

Now, unique visitors and engagement metrics replace web-hits, gut feelings are replaced by eye tracking, and web counters have grown into scientific analytic packages that can tell you when a user sneezes and what cold and flu remedy they bought. The age of measurable design is here.

In my second choice of careers as a creative, I came to love the relative immediacy of digital design and its ability to be “tinkered” with—something any creative spotting a typo on a freshly printed pile of 250,000 pieces of DM would wholeheartedly agree with. A typo is easy—it’s wrong, so fix it—but as the objectives get bigger, so does the complexity of what needs doing. The trick is to do your homework, know what the “big” objective is, and find every avenue available to achieving it while using technology as an enabler.

For example, we helped Small Luxury Hotels achieve a 15% increase in average booking value by going through a score of tweaks and tinkers—some so imperceptibly small to the casual viewer that even the most ardent player of “Spot the Difference” would have trouble picking them out.

These kinds of measurable design improvement to message, interface, and system can only be made possible by strong insight, which in turn comes from measurement, be it scientific quantitative data or empathetic qualitative observations. Obviously, we prefer both.

Using the right measurement is key. The cold, hard truth is that design can always be measured. Even the most stunning piece of creative is born from an objective and a thought process by which it can be measured.

Looking at traffic, brand value, returns, placement, and social when considering \ “the big idea” helps to frame a concept. For example, when we look to target high-net-worth individuals for American Express, traffic volume is less important than quality of lead, so we focus on the proposition being very subject matter-specific to act as a natural filter for prospects.

Having said that, simplicity should never be underestimated. As Henry Ford reportedly said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

Companies often know what they want, but they don’t know what that looks like in a digital world.  A complex assembly of requirements still boils down to a fundamental set of business objectives, and if we can’t articulate those in a few simple sentences, we lose our way. Clearly stating what success looks like makes the goals easier to achieve.

Another idea I truly believe in is enjoyment as a measurement. A great experience is not as easy to tally as downloads or unique visitors, so it is often seen as a soft measurement and frequently discounted. But the joy of interacting and using something is an integral part of brand value and can make or break the customer’s relationship with the brand. Experience is an essential measurement.

So the next time someone asks if your beautiful customer-service experiences work, don’t be afraid to get detailed with your measurements. Because the truth is, anything less just isn’t enough today.

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