User Centred Success Measures

When starting a new project or picking up a piece of work, we may have a project brief or kick-off meeting. We do this to frame the problem we’re trying to solve, understand some user needs, clarify some constraints, discuss opportunities and define some success metrics.

I’ve watched teams work together for the last 5-6 years to do this well. Peers from design, product, engineering and data bring their wealth of experience to start work in the best possible way. Knowing this:

  • reduces the potential for communication breakdowns
  • provides clarity on ‘why are we doing this?’
  • ensures the team focuses on user needs
  • supports the understanding of what good may look like
  • reduces the amount of ‘surprises’ which may crop up

Whilst also knowing that “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” – Mike Tyson.

Success Metrics vs Success Measures

One of the most notable things from the past 5-6 years is the imbalance between success metrics, success measures and, more importantly, user-centred success measures.

More often than not, success metrics are in a quantitative format:

  • 46% increase in downloads
  • 30% decrease in lost applications
  • NPS increased by 30 points

Whilst success metrics can give you concrete aims; they’re not user centred.

  • a 46% increase in downloads doesn’t mean a user has completed their objective.
  • a 30% decrease in lost applications doesn’t mean users have a better experience.
  • NPS increasing by 30 points may have to do with something external.

It is my duty and the duty of any design leader to make sure that products and features are user centred. We ensure:

  • user needs are at the heart of the work
  • there is a balance between business needs and user needs to get a successful outcome for both
  • teams do user research to validate/invalidate/learn
  • user-centred success measures are defined upfront

I will say that I don’t believe it’s a ‘versus’ situation. We should know that qual and quant can give us great insight when used together. So it’s very much a conversation of bringing user-centred success measures into the mix as a power-up.

What are user-centred success measures?

To frame being user-centred in your mind, you can ask yourselves a series of questions:

  • Does X thing work for users?
  • Can a user get what they need from it?
  • How well does it produce the intended outcome?

The latter point is most notable, does the action/feature/product produce the intended outcome for a user?

Track the ability of users to get to their intended outcome and other metrics to measure how well you’re meeting their needs.

Using both user-centred success measures and success metrics, you will understand whether the growth or decrease in metrics is causing a positive outcome to the experience for your users.

How to write user-centred success measures

Much like the way we write user needs:

  • As a user, I need X so that XYZ…

You can write user-centred success measures like:

  • As a user, I can X therefore XYZ…

You can use these at both a high-level or intricate level of product design and development.