Metrics Driven Design

Description, slides, and further reading on metrics driven design.

Talk Description

For every design change you make affecting your user’s experience, do you know if you’re having a positive or negative impact? Are you adding to your organization’s bottom line or eroding it? Are you sure? Or, are you like most design teams who release work through a ramshackle process made up of politics, prayer, and paralysis? The health of the business must be the highest priority for designers. With a plethora of fast and cheap analytics tools available that bring us the ability to measure almost anything, we have no excuse not to be measuring every design change we make. So don’t drive blindly: use metrics-driven design to make sure the impact you’re having is a positive one.

Download Slides (.pdf)

Further Reading

UX Engagement Metrics - A quick list of different engagement metrics of increasing fidelity...shows how metrics have changed over time on the Web.

Goodbye, Google - Doug Bowman's post on his departure from Google, in which he articulates the intuition-driven design vs. data-driven design issue extremely well. This post was one of the pre-cursor of my talk...Doug really outlined the rift at hand.

Data, Not Design, Is King in the Age of Google - A NYTimes article on the Google/Douglas Bowman rift.

A Culture of Testing - Seth Godin makes the right point...despite Netflix's claims about a rigorous testing environment, they couldn't test the big ideas that really set their company apart in the marketplace. Test what you can, but launch the untestable.

What Metrics equal Happy Users? - An insightful post by Laura Klein on what different engagement metrics mean to your business.

Three Greatest Survey Questions Ever - set of three great questions to ask people who are on your website. Extremely valuable as you track how well your site is working over time.

Vanity metrics vs. actionable metrics - Great post by Eric Ries on which metrics to pay attention to.

Designing startup metrics to drive successful behavior - Excellent analysis by David Skok on the metrics of growing a business and how to break down the process of analyzing and improving your marketing and sales channels.

Sign Up Flow Redesign Boosts Twitter Sign-Ups by 29% - Luke Wroblewski has a really nice write-up of Mark Trammell's talk on a sign-up redesign done on

Web Analytics 101: Definitions: Goals, Metrics, KPIs, Dimensions, Targets - A deep piece by analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik, describing the differences between goals, metrics, and targets.

In Defense of Data-driven Design - A nice piece by Luke Stevens on what he calls data-driven design, which in his view should allow you to take risks in design, not constrain design.

Where did all the Design Dictators Go? - Great piece by John Griffin illustrating the cultural differences between business-driven corporations (where non-designers often run design projects) and design-driven agencies where designers reign supreme.

After the Techcrunch Bump - Article talking about cohort analysis by Josh Kopelman. One of the first times I realized that venture capitalists were focused on engagement...actually doing UX research in a way.

Cohort Analysis - Measuring Engagement over time - an article I wrote talking about cohort analysis from a UX point of view.

5 steps towards building a metrics-driven business - nice post by Andrew Chen on using metrics...I think this was the first mention I saw of local maxima as I use it in the talk.

The Local Maximum - a short post I wrote on the Local Maximum

Metrics for Pirates - Dave McClure's great talk on metrics for startups. The slides are great, but hearing Dave give the talk is even better...he's passionate and really user-focused.

Presented at


SXSW Interactive 2011Mar 11-15, 2011
This talk was very fun, thanks all for coming! It was very intimidating to be in a room the size of Ballroom A, but I think the number of folks showed how important metrics are to all businesses these days. I'm sorry we had such a short time for Q&A!

UX London 2010

UX LondonMay 19-21, 2010
I gave the original version of this talk at UX London and it was very well received. Designing is hard enough without having a new enemy to think about, so the point I wanted to make clear was that metrics should help designers, not hinder them.