Making Metrics Matter in UX Design

Issue 20.2

Jan 10, 2018 · 2 min read

Adventures in UX Design is a newsletter helping you navigate UX roadblocks

(For more on the topic of metrics for UX design, check out issue 20.1, Creating User Centered Metrics.)

You might say that humans use three languages to make sense of their world: words, pictures, and numbers. If we can sort out and understand all three of these languages as they pertain to the products we create, the more likely we are to solve problems, improve and grow products, in a sustainable way.

Kate Rutter explores how these three languages come together to help teams define metrics that matter in her UIE seminar on UX-centered metrics. She shares a progression of how one of these languages (tracking metrics) can shake-out:

  • Unhelpful: Tracking signups
  • Vanity: Total number of registered users
  • Good: Percent of new users per week
  • Better: Percentage of user sign-in per day, per week
  • Awesome: Percentage of users who share a task three or more times a day or more per week

What we determine as meaningful metrics for our design and products, Kate explains, will be unique to our business. This is why out-of-the-box analytics solutions fall short. If you want to track meaningful metrics, you have to find them first.

Kate asks us to start with a data visualization exercise:

  1. What’s your goal? (Write it out.)
  2. What does it look like? (Draw a little picture.)
  3. How will you measure it and how will you track it? (Model the idea.)
  4. What’s a number (comparative, time-based, actionable, simple, specific, and measurable) and how will you track that?
  5. Correlate a data point with a behavior and see it move

She explores in detail metrics that teams have used to assess their work, such as the PULSE approach from the early days of the Internet (Page Views, Uptime, Latency, Seven-day Active Users, Earnings), to PIRATE Metrics (Acquisition + Activation + Retention + Referral + Revenue = ARRRRR), to the more user-experience-focused HEART Metrics (Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, Task Success).

A good metric measures the usage of your product by a person, explains Kate. It needs to be specific. Know what behaviors and interactions that metric represents, and what the desired behaviors are. Identify specific interactions in the interface that will help you measure desired behaviors, and then find the numbers to track them.

Get a full picture of the measurements you can generate, both qualitative and quantitative, to build a narrative unique to your business in Kate’s seminar.

WATCH: Finding the Narrative in Numbers: Making the Most of Metrics with Kate Rutter

LISTEN: Spirits, Claws, and Analytics — A Study in Superstition and Science with Kate Rutter

Adventures in UX Design


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UIE is a leading research, training, and consulting firm specializing in UX, web site and product usability.

Adventures in UX Design

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