UX de-risks projects, saves money during development, uncovers new opportunities and makes better products, but it isn’t often subjected to its own performance metrics.
The argument that a formal UX strategy with its own KPIs can’t exist is valid, but a bit simplistic. General consensus is that UX falls under Product Strategy, so a successful product implies good UX. You could never extract the essential design values which UX brings as they’re so intertwined in the aesthetics, feel and behaviour of the wider product.
This means that the performance measurement frameworks which we use to assess the product need to be driven by the attitudinal and behavioural attributes which define UX.
Google’s HEART framework can be a good start, acting as something of a UX mission statement for the design of individual products, whilst providing a simple litmus test for how well your products are performing in the market.
HEART’s objectives can act as broad brush strokes which will guide the project, regardless of how the design might change, whilst also providing the KPIs used to measure success.
The framework was designed to assess the UX of Google’s own websites and web apps by evaluating a range of non-financial metrics based around 5 objectives: Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success.
Moving beyond simple traffic metrics like page views and unique users, the framework captures more of the subtleties which UX seeks to achieve. HEART’s ability to identify complicated attitudinal and behavioural metrics in a presentable manner also makes it effective for group activities such as forging agreements on project goals and bringing stakeholders together in common cause.
Analysing objectives like Task Success, we can identify a set of low-level ‘signals’ which would indicate effectiveness - maybe event logs on websites or helpline usage when attempting to complete a task. The exact metric we use under each of these banners could be driven by data derived from usability tests.
The Balanced Scorecard
The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) represents an age-old solution which can also adapt to more conceptual KPIs, integrating a ‘Finance’ metric alongside three non-financial: the Customer, Learning and Growth, and Internal Processes. As its name suggests, it seeks to provide ‘balance’ to financial metrics.
For companies seeking to integrate an enterprise level UX applicable to all activities, rather than setting distinct metrics for a specific product, the BSC can be a good fit.
The BSC is used widely across the majority of blue-chip companies, but has come under increasing scrutiny as a measurement framework.
The framework works well in the private sector, but it does require that link to Finance - which can come in the form of increased revenue or reduced costs - the latter being handy for public sector work where the profit motive is less apparent.
The BSC is more complex than HEART due to the fact that it tends to apply to the entire enterprise strategy, rather than being adaptable from product-to-product. The framework therefore needs more buy-in and training across departments but it can embed a range of UX practices into company objectives.
Questions remain about whether the BSC includes key stakeholders or perhaps focuses on shareholders, with some suggesting that it might be less suitable for government and non-profit organisations. With that said, the criteria are adaptable and as with any framework of this type it can be adjusted to fit.
As a design discipline UX is highly scientific. It is therefore one of the few design approaches which can be brought formally into company strategy with metrics and KPIs.
HEART has the ability to recognise the subtle differences in goals one product has from the next. It can identify and place a focus on motivations such as task completion, and can adapt to a far more subtle set of metrics than website traffic deviations. Google’s framework can act as a UX sieve for the wider enterprise UX which is formalised under the BSC.
This way clients can begin to form a dual UX strategy for both individual products and the enterprise as a whole.