“Goal-Driven Design” in 3 Steps

Michael Parler
Jun 15, 2016 · 5 min read

A version of this article appears on Purple, Rock, Scissors.

What is Goal-Driven Design (GDD)? Put simply, it’s a step beyond User-Centered Design. GDD supports the realization that products, websites, web applications, and just about any experience out there will serve two masters: the End Users and the Stakeholders, who are usually in the form of the “business owners” behind the product or service.

Keep in mind that the Goals of the End Users and Stakeholders may not be exactly the same. It is the merging of the two that results in strong Goal-Driven Design.

An illustrative analogy

I like analogies, so here’s one. Imagine a Restaurant.

There must be a balance between the goals of the Diners and goals of the Restaurant Owner.

The Restaurant Owner probably wants to serve good food to enough customers (“turn tables”) and maintain overall profitability. However, the Diners want good food at a reasonable price, and they usually want to hang out for a while after enjoying their meal.

This paradigm puts the two elements of the equation at odds with each other. However, a few things still bring them together, namely good food and good service. Collectively, a good experience.

At this point you might think: There are other variables that influence success. What about increasing price? Sell desserts if they sit around around for a while! What about longer operational hours? Why does money matter? It’s about good food!

Yes, of course all of those variables can enter the equation to balance the overall experience.

The point is there must be a strong balance between opposing forces, otherwise the Restaurant will not sustain. Until both the Restaurant Owner and the Diners accomplish their goals, the business will not find true success.

You might also think, “This is boring, Michael. I just want to read shit about Technology and UX and Marketing and I’m about to bounce. Where the hell are my three steps?”

Fine. Here’s my point: you need to understand the foundational elements of the business before you plan, design, or build anything. So let’s jump to it…

1. DETERMINE THE GOALS.

Simon Sinek’s popular TedTalk, “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action” breaks down what makes successful products and people successful. Simon calls it the Golden Circle:

Goal-Driven Design runs on this same fuel. What is the point of the design? Does the application or product have true Purpose?

What Purpose does this design serve for the End Users? What purpose does it serve for the Product Owner behind the scenes? How does it all fit in our digital economy?

Map out these answers. Dive deep. Write them all down before you wireframe anything. Seriously.

2. GET BUY-IN FROM ALL PARTIES.

Time to develop a Measurement Plan. Write down those Goals, then get buy-in from all parties involved.

It’s not surprising how often conflict resolution happens at this stage between Business Owners behind the scenes. Many times, several internal Stakeholders have opposing Goals that conflict internally, and we’re not even considering the End User yet.

At PRPL, we sometimes see conflicts between our customers’ Marketing Departments, IT Departments, Customer Service Departments, Student Admissions Departments, Legal Departments, Finance Departments, etc. Everyone needs to be on the same page with what the Goals are before we go solving them.

Michael, that’s stupid and cost-prohibitive. We don’t have enough time or money to talk to all those people. Or, they just don’t listen to me when I ask questions. Actually, I’m not even allowed to talk to half of those people.

I see. However, having these conversations could very well save more time and energy down the road. Re-developing a failed product is way more costly than making sure everyone is on the same page with the plan at hand. You should always measure twice and cut once.

So then how do we get End User buy-in for our Goals? We don’t have our wireframes yet!

Do some focus groups or online surveys with the target demographic. Hit the streets and do some rogue guerrilla questionnaires and analysis. Make sure you understand their wants and needs so you can then best determine how this product should fulfill them.

Does the Restaurant want to offer cheap food fast and in high volume? McDonald’s seems to be doing really well. Does the Restaurant instead want to offer high-quality and reasonably-priced “foodie food” without the need to rush through dinner? There are plenty of local and successful options that offer that, as well.

As long as Goals are defined for all parties, everyone should come out on top.

3. ELIMINATE WASTE.

Let’s look at that Measurement Plan again. Time to cross out some of those Goals that are not truly Goals.

Too many Goals? You’re probably losing focus. Again — measure twice, cut once.

Every experience you design should fulfill the Goals of your Measurement Plan, and nothing more! If an idea serves a purpose outside of these goals, it means we’re going off course.

Same goes for crap in your interface. What purpose does this fly-out serve? Should this element be tucked in a modal? By hiding it, does it serve any of our Goals?

Wireframing without purpose is also putting random tactics and ideas before Goals. It’s the “cart before the horse,” and you usually end up with an interface full of interaction elements that fail to serve a need.

Design to your Measurement Plan. Deploy. Then optimize to your Measurement Plan.

Eliminating waste not only applies to design, it is an important factor in all interaction and communication. Communication breakdown can be equally as wasteful. Long-winded emails. Useless meetings without a clear agenda. It’s all waste.

Wrap it up with a bow

By developing carefully aligned “Goals” that provide value to both the End User and Stakeholders, the experience will succeed. Websites. Mobile Applications. Restaurants. Lead Generation Campaigns. Interactive Installations. Retail Shopping Experiences. They’re all the same.

If you’re not designing for Goals, then it’s just art. Yes, experiences can be art, but that doesn’t pay the bills. If you are reading this blog, then you’re probably a commercialized designer — namely a graphic designer, user experience designer, strategist, art director, etc.

To do our jobs properly, we all need to find strong balance not just for the End User, but also for the Stakeholders behind the products and services that we design. Without this balance, our design will not sustain and perform.


If you enjoyed this article written for Orlando digital creative agency Purple, Rock, Scissors, please hit the heart below to recommend it to others!

Purple, Rock, Scissors

Our digital economy runs on results. We believe in goal-driven design, pinpointing the intersection between business goals, user goals, and the products designed to bring them together.

Michael Parler

Written by

VP of Purple, Rock, Scissors, a digital creative agency. I dig innovation, futurism, economics, heavy music, shitty beer, & #oldSchoolMTG. @michaelparler

Purple, Rock, Scissors

Our digital economy runs on results. We believe in goal-driven design, pinpointing the intersection between business goals, user goals, and the products designed to bring them together.

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