Real Anecdotes of Insights for Design Teams

I believe in a loose definition of insights and the notion that “data” or insight driven work is largely creative. 

1. A simple observation that could be gleaned without doing your own research

i.e. Visitors are more likely to scroll then click > Consider scroll-based pages to optimize likeness to see key content.

Results for a “one page” product page I created for Sorry folks 

i.e. The first song on the “weekly discover” playlist must be amazing to achieve traction on that playlist > Ensure that first song passes as an “amazing song.” The song was Sunshower by Dr Buzzards Original Savannah Band.

i.e. Nielsen’s usability heuristics. I still get insane value from them and would be fine with throwing them directly on the board as an “insight.”

2. Inspired by a great question, not the result

I generated this affinity matrix that showed the overlap of behavior for those who visited different MBA programs on our client’s site. The client was very surprised by the lack of overlap. I also found the heavy reliance on core MBA pages a missed opportunity.

Program Affinity Matrix for a Business School

e.g. Visitors spend very little time outside of one specific programs or core application MBA pages > Sell the program, not the school. Each business school should have their own unique content and visual identity. They should not be bolstered by the core MBA admissions pages. 

3. A factoid that you gleaned or inherited and are making too much of

e.g. Students and Faculty listed “leadership” as the least important item they would use to sell prospective students on the school > Get leadership content out of the highest level in the navigation. De-prioritize it as a message or content area.

On the other hand, the creative director for this project studied the competition and believed that 1 on 1 “leadership coaching” was a unique and compelling offering for a program in their market. Go with your gut, or a/b test… but most of all recognize that the triangulation of data sources is so important.

4. An astute observation that was in plain site

I noticed a bizarre behavior of users dragging windows to create a structured overlap for no apparent reason. 

e.g. Users really value context > Be inspired to create interesting ways of a user staying in context

5. A surprising finding that is also strong evidence for going with a particular strategy

This may happen to you if you get lucky. 

e.g. Those who visited Doctor and Affordability pages were more likely to convert then visitors to other pages > Funnel users through doctor specific, not clinic-specific conversion flows. Consider ramping up the doctor-centric strategy for content.

% of visitors who convert on a health website

6. A simple tactic that bubbles up as an important element of a new design strategy

e.g. Those who apply to the MBA program spend a majority of time in admissions pages and do not visit alumni/careers/news content > Sell the program on admissions pages where prospectives are spending a lot of time.

7. The info is in plain sight AND the insight is very obvious

e.g. You have as many Facebook visitors as actual visits on the year on your television site > In the redesign, focus on the Facebook snippet designs and specific strategies showing how your new site is a journey from Facebook to your site.

e.g. When I surveyed small biz owners, they reacted well to “a professional email” over “domain” > Market that way

What is typically described as Google Apps for Business, branding itself as Google Domains.

8. You ran an A/B test, so you feel confident…

e.g. Landing page “A” beat landing page “B.” > Use landing page “B”

“A” beating “B” is true. However, this result is forever tied to the specific circumstances of that test, which will surely evolve as other parts of the product change. And do note, there is always an option C.


Was the insight driven by…

  • a hard number or guesstimate?
  • primary or secondary research?
  • advanced or simple metric?
  • an a/b test?

Was the takeaway…

  • perceptive or pretty obvious?
  • top-down/design-related or more abstract?
  • controversial or not controversial?

 So, for the last time

  1. Insights is a creative process. So much of insights work is the fact that you chose to ask a good question, point something out and prioritize it above other facts, or how you gave an insight appealing actionability.
  2. I know I sound crazy, but I don’t think you need hard numbers or evidence to have an insight. Otherwise your work may suffer strategically. This reduces bias towards recommendations that are directly related to your hard evidence. General truths, not necessarily “data” carry so much of the weight of good design. Step back and don’t just chase the data sources you’ve been given access to.