February 14, 2018 | Bruce Shields

Data-Driven Design Series Part II: Discovery and Research

The Missing Data in Digital Design


New digital design projects begin with discovering the problem and defining the objectives. The information gathered during this critical early period builds the foundation for a successful outcome. Which means it’s vital to ensure you’re looking for and incorporating ALL relevant information. Many projects get derailed, or flat-out fail, because they lacked comprehensive data from the start.

Most digital designers would agree that two elements essential to this early phase are a) identifying intended users and their goals and b) understanding their behavior. But many times, an important data set is left out: attitudinal insights. Mined from Voice of Customer (VOC) input, attitudinal data provides a deep, insight-rich view of the design challenges and—maybe even more importantly—allows the designer to create a pathway that connects user behavior to user goals. Despite being a key digital-design ingredient, it’s one many projects lack.

Attitudinal Data: Finding, Capturing, and Understanding It

Customer journey maps are a popular and useful tool for tracking digital experiences and gaining insight into user behavior. But they help solve just one piece of the puzzle. Users do unexpected things and take unplanned paths—maps tell you where, but they don’t tell you why. Your design team might create what they believe to be a great site or application, but users will reject it if doesn’t take a holistic view of customer needs into account. You gain that view with attitudinal data, which reveals the hidden goals, subtle motivations, and unexpected needs that behavioral data can’t.

The ForeSee survey methodology provides a deep well of attitudinal data points. Using contextual questions, we can glean vital information about what users want to do, what they can and can’t accomplish, and what specifically is causing the problem. The survey arms us with “why” answers, which we can combine with the behavioral “what” data to create a solid foundation of user insight.

Calibrating KPIs to User Needs

Whether organizations admit it or not, users guide their KPIs. Creating a superior online experience must start with a clear understanding of the customer perspective. Nothing else will work: Users always put their own needs and expectations first. If your business goals are not aligned with those needs and expectations, the disconnect will negatively impact the project from start to finish—as many of us have seen firsthand. After all, for dissatisfied customers, leaving a site or switching to a competitor is accomplished with a single click.

KPIs typically come from higher up in the organization. Some of those goals will naturally align with user goals, but often at least some KPIs are unrealistic, or based on assumptions or bad data. It’s part of the design team’s responsibilities to work closely with stakeholders to identify which KPIs are misaligned with user goals, recommend corrections (based on attitudinal data), and strategize which design levers can be pulled to help create alignment and meet those goals.

Once KPIs are aligned with the user’s goals, design needs and objectives become clear. Plus, the additional data—both objective and quantifiable—helps stakeholders see the benefit of the project, which helps ensure it receives the support it needs.

Following KPI alignment, the next steps are targeting specific user groups and identifying and resolving friction points: What is this subset of users trying to do? What’s in their way, and where are they struggling? For example, if you know your site’s navigation is an issue for a particular group, you can leverage tools like ForeSee’s Predictive Information Architecture card sort. This tool validates the site architecture (navigation, search, etc.) and can predict impacts on user behavior. You can also target particular types of customers with a Predictive User Test, which allows designers to see what works as intended and what doesn’t; what’s causing good outcomes and what’s causing bad outcomes. Both tools allow you to validate and adjust design elements by providing real-world insight into how changes impact users.

Focusing on Customer Experience

Fortunately, design teams don’t have to tackle customer experience projects by themselves. At ForeSee, we help companies define their highest-expectation users; identify their needs, behaviors, and opinions; and align the project to your business goals. And we do it with data and a predictive, cause-and-effect methodology that removes guesswork and bad assumptions from the process. This means building a framework that helps you prioritize and validate every decision in the design process. The result will be a new digital experience that is effective, efficient, and satisfying to your users. In other words, one that brings all the pieces of the puzzle together to drive positive change for your business.

ForeSee Blogger Bruce Shields

About the Author

Bruce Shields is a Usability Manager at ForeSee. He holds a master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction from the University of Michigan, and has led an internal research task force focusing on responsive design. Prior to joining Foresee, Bruce was a career journalist and helped lead web and multimedia efforts for several publications.

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