Why Designers Should Care About Measuring Success

“How do you know this design is better?”
This question stumbles even the most seasoned designers. Businesses are recognizing the importance of design and the competitive advantage that taking a design-led approach offers. Designers are moving up the corporate ranks and we’re now beginning to see titles like “Design Strategist,” “Design Director” and “Chief Design Officer” take hold within organizations. As designers, the decisions that we are now making carry much more weight and inherently, more risk, to the companies we serve.
This presentation proposes 3 questions that designers can ask to tease out measurement of success early in our creative processes. It will explore methods to develop concrete measurements that will enable designers to make faster decisions, create better alignment with traditional business metrics (e.g. Online conversion rate, sales per square inch), and have more courage to push creative boundaries in our work.


  • Alfred Lui, Dir of User Experience Design, Health (Jawbone)



Design is now used to solve complex problems. “How do you know this idea is going to work?” is an annoying question because it is about the future. Often the same people who ask us to do something new want to base it on what other people are doing, but copying is not design (it can be improvement).

Designers love change; businesses thrive on consistency. The “conflict between innovation and stability” is about disruptive ideas.

A new world

Storytelling is a way to communicate an idea. A good story doesn’t mean that a solution will be reached. In order to fight against perceived risks, we need “breadcrumbs of proof” to keep the story alive until the end.

Three elements of design solutions:

most commonly worked on, engaging, easy-to-use, functional, attractive, magical
prototypable, scalable, distributable
least commonly worked on

Measurement of success: the interface between our disruptive ideas and the no-so-well-designed systems that we work within. The way we connect desirability, feasibility, and viability together.

Why does this product/service exist? What does success look like? How will we validate we have reached success? Which tests should we use (are we optimizing an existing behavior or creating new behaviors?)?

Beyond the brief
The design brief only describes what is missing that the product will fix, but it doesn’t involve the context and the problem and what success looks like after the product has been delivered. These extra pieces of information help align the design to success.
Agree on the measurements early and expect new measurements. This isn’t metric-driven design, per se, but is about expectation management. It gives you a vocabulary to talk about how close the design got to the solution. Unexpected measurements (like controversy) can actually be meta- or anti-measurements of what you put into place.
Frequent testing helps demonstrate the proof of success. Lean UX (test fast, early, and often) tends to be about the atomic mechanics instead of the overall success of the design’s intent (e.g., change human behavior). Testing has to be out in the wild (closed beta, a/b test, interviews, observable usability).

A new mindset

There are many new methodologies (below) for success-driven design, but it’s not so much about tools or processes but about your mindset.

  • LeanUX and metrics-based design
  • Local Maxima (Google’s “41 shades of blue”)

We rely on intuition and opinion when designing, and measured design doesn’t require we leave intuition behind. “Intuition is no longer the only quality that creates good work.” Our ideas rely on many people to make a design work, and the problems we are solving for humanity are becoming more and more complex, so the designer’s responsibility has expanded beyond surprise and inspiration to include providing proof of success.