Designing for Dollars: How design can impact the bottom line
Many people think design makes the app or product aesthetically pleasing; however, design impacts more than just the look of a product, it impacts the bottom line.
If a user does not know how to buy a product — deisgn fail
If a user cannot figure out how to sign up — design fail
If a user does not know what to do — design fail
Before founding Kabam, I was a UX designer at AOL working designing product from the Media Player to Safety & Security (Spyware/Anti-virus) to Community (Blogs, Forums, etc…). Three years passed and nothing launched out of Beta. Every single one my products were cancelled.
This type of failure was the worst kind because before a single user was able to use it — some executive, who was not a user, killed it. Therefore, it was a death of a dream.
As a designer this type of failure was incredibly disheartening because a designer grows from feedback. Design has a purpose outside of self-expression. The designer creates features for a purpose, task, achievement or emotion. Whereas art grows mainly from self-expression.
Art is an expression of oneself. While Design is devoid of oneself and all about purpose.
Design inherently needs a purpose. Oftentimes, UX design puts the user at the center, making it as easy as possible to use the product. However any great business will place the customer at the center.
Designers get into religious wars over the placement of OK/Cancel buttons, all in the name of “usability”. When in reality the product should be designed to support its larger purpose that is part of the business and measured. Measuring your success along the lines of business success will remove religious wars from the team.
Data-driven UX Design
UX designers have a large hand in impacting 4 areas of analytics that drive businesses forward. Oftentimes, what users do is more important than what they say. Users will report something that do not show up in the metrics.
Thus, coining the framework “Designing for Dollars” but some people might just call it data-driven UX. Whatever you call it, it’s a framework for tying UX to the overall business goals.
These are the 4 areas of business analytics that UX designers directly impact:
Acquisition — Getting users to come
The best way to move this needle is to track the conversion funnel via metrics.
Your conversion funnel could be the following: user sees an ad => clicks on it => signs up => fill out profile => do action on your site.
If there is a dramatic drop off of users between any of the =>[next step], investigate not just from an engineering point of view but also from a UX point of view.
UX questions to ask are:
What use cases are people dropping off? Is there something users are not understanding?
Better yet, can you watch people use your product?
Retention — Getting users to return
Retention is seen though the lens of usage — DAUs (Daily Active Users), WAUs (Weekly Active Users). This usually means on average how many users login/use your site daily (DAUs) or weekly (WAUs).
Looking at churn is the flip side of retention. Users that never return. Churn becomes important in B2B SaaS or subscription based companies.
At a UX level, the impact on retention can look like this:
What does the user see when it is their first time vs their second time vs their Xth time? What actions are easily available to them?
What kinds of messaging does the user receive? What actions kick off a notification? What do the notifications say? This may be broken up amongst different people like PMs but I think UX people should think about this as a whole.
What action occurred before the user decided to leave? How long did it take for them to return to the site before churning all together?
Engagement — Getting the user to stay
If a lot of users stay few seconds and then bounce, then you may have an app that is not deep and cannot create too much value — thus likely to be labeled as “spammy”. Engagement is usually measured by time spent on app, which is the crudest form of measurement of this. As you get more sophisticated and as you get more users the engagement metric may be a measurement of how many “active” they are on your app/product, which could be translated to how many friends they have, how many videos consumed or how many alliances they are in.
Example: When designing our trivia game, the UX was critical to enagement. After a user answered a question a new one was automatically pushed to them getting them into a great flow and increasing their engagement on the site. Within a few short months we had over 1 billion trivia questions answered.
Most products do not need this; however, those that do, are the ones that need to move out of the “spam” category. Also in many products, engagement and retention (if the user will return) is strongly correlated.
Monetization — Getting users to pay
Assuming you are monetizing by collecting money from the end user, then all of the above will tie into one metric — the Life Time Value of the customer. At the highest level it is # of users X amount pay each time they come X how much they come back over their lifetime. This is a difficult and tricky one to calculate. Businesses are constantly working to improve this and better forecast.
How UX can significantly impact these metrics are in the following:
Payment flows — any way to save the user time in helping them remember their credit card? Ease of use can really help with reducing friction to pay
Surfacing the Buy buttons in an easy to find manner
Checkout flows should be painless
Regardless what metrics a UX designer wants to move, the designer and everyone on the product team should always be asking:
What is the purpose of the feature?
Which business goal — acquisition, retention, engagement and monetization - is the feature trying to move forward? Does the design support these features?
The UX designer should be creating an experience and interactions to support these goals and if done well, the designer can sit back and watch the dollars come in!
This blog post was inspired by a panel I was on at Web Summit — How to be a UX-pert. I was the lead designer at AOL and then at Kabam I led the design our flagship franchise — Kingdoms of Camelot which has now grossed over $350 million dollars in its lifetime.