Data-Driven Experience Design: Embracing Analytics

At THINK, we have a small, but talented team devoted to business intelligence, SEO, analytics and FlowScore metrics. They’re a relatively quiet team too. They hang out on the other side of the office and rarely venture over to the design studio to engage in our shenanigans (Nerf wars, banjo-playing, sketch-noting and the like). They’re too busy. They have their fingers on the pulse of the Internet, scanning, monitoring, watching traffic ebb and flow, measuring sentiment, separating signal from noise. And they make it seem so easy and effortless. They are data sentinels and they’re rapidly becoming one of our secret weapons in Experience Design.

At the start of every project, as we go through the Discovery & Insights work phase, they unearth the usual kinds of information you would expect:  search traffic, information on site entry points sorted by page and device type, data on lead-gen and form completion, media campaigns, etc. It can help us identify and understand why some pages or sections of a site perform better than others. It can help us understand where and how to improve lead gen and conversion. We can see where the funnel starts to break down, etc. It’s all good stuff and it’s generally pretty interesting. Sometimes, it’s incredibly insightful information. Other times, it simply confirms things we already know (e.g. mobile use is increasing!).

Very early in my career, I learned that design was not the purview of a single person, group or department. Rather, design is truly a multidisciplinary endeavor with room at the table for a wide variety of disciplines and perspectives. For design to be successful, it requires breadth and depth of knowledge and the participation of a variety of subject matter experts – including Business Intelligence.

My flirtation with business intelligence and analytics started out innocently enough. We were working on a mobile site for an existing client. The target users were an older, affluent demographic. Our Business Intelligence team had given me a deck with  an assortment of pie charts, bar charts and trend lines to review at the start of this project. Something was funny on one of the charts, however. The data didn’t seem right to me. So, I asked them to double check it. The data was right. We started talking about it, about why it seemed strange, about what it might mean, about what they could correlate it to. The results of that conversation gave my team the key insight needed to dramatically improve the user experience on mobile for the target audience. For me, personally, the key insight was that business intelligence, analytics and FlowScore metrics are really another form of behavioral research based on trackable user actions.  I also learned that by asking our Business Intelligence team better questions, there were often better insights to be gleaned from the data.

Over time, our cross-departmental dialogue has increased. Now, the Experience Design team regularly interacts with the Business Intelligence team. We’ve started sharing our design briefs with them, telling them what problem(s) we are trying to solve, asking better questions of them and their data. With a better understanding of what we are trying to do and what type of information may be helpful for strategy, UX and design, their reporting has improved as well.

Interestingly, they stopped by my office last week to talk about a large .com redesign we are about to start. They had noticed a lot of traffic to an issues library on the existing site and a lot of traffic to the client’s service offerings pages, but they realized there were no pages that linked the services to the issues themselves and they felt this might be an opportunity for us. In a meeting an hour earlier, our content strategist made a similar observation based on the deep dives she was doing into the content on the site. The analytics validated her observation. As we design a new site architecture, we’ll close this gap in the user journey.

Going forward, we’ll be able to measure changes in site traffic and conversion based on the addition of these new site pages. We will make other changes based on insights from the analytics and we’ll continue to ask the Business Intelligence team for more information as we move through the design process. We’ll incorporate this knowledge into our design work and the user research we’ll be doing in a few weeks. I’m confident our design solution will be rich and experiential, highly aesthetic and as seamless as possible for users. Our use of data-driven insights and the cross pollination with our Business Intelligence team will free the Experience Design team to focus on a great user experience that solves the right problems for our client and their target audience.