An Event Apart: Designing With Data

by Luke Wroblewski April 27, 2014

At An Event Apart in Boston MA 2014, Sarah Parmenter shared how she's come to embrace using data in her design process. Here's my notes from her talk Designing Using Data:

  • Instincts are experiments, data is our proof. We're no longer artists of the Web, we're systems developers.
  • We can't rely on design providing the wow factor. Too many designs just fit into a existing cookie-cutter solutions.
  • Data driven design is relatively easy to pick up and integrate into your work.
  • People often make design decisions for the wrong reasons. Data gives you a way to better frame your arguments and help help make more effective decisions.
  • Being able to incorporate data in your designs, makes you more valuable. We need to be able to explain why we make decisions not just make things look pretty.
  • Why haven't we been designing with data? Some of us might assume it's not part of our jobs. But understanding why is a critical part of what we do.
  • Research is applied curiosity.
  • Some data is better than nothing at all. You can use really quick tools or methods to gather insights.
  • MailChimp uses Evernote to organize all their research and make it quickly accessible through search. It took them a while to get started: "start small, shock & awe".
  • What can you do to make sure "no one has an excuse to make un-informed decisions"?
  • We often have to start with intuition to decide what to test and learn about. Our intuition is informed by data. Once you get data, you can be sure and learn.

Using Data

  • AirBnB found that professional photography allowed their listing to convert 2-3 times higher. They started with an instinct that better photos would help, then measured the impact.
  • Vanity metrics are measures that make you feel good, but don't really matter to the bottom line. Hits, total sign-ups, etc aren't very useful.
  • Making your metrics go up is pointless unless your metrics are tied directly to why you go into work in the morning.
  • Personas provide an understanding of your customers. Every time you skip creating personas on a project, you ultimately regret it.
  • Guerrilla audience testing: print some gift cards before your product is ready to gauge interest, run some ads on Facebook to test your hypothesis on specific personas. Facebook's insight panel will tell you who is engaging with your content.
  • People like honesty -they can see through fake sales pitches easily.
  • There is data lurking everywhere -ripe for picking up.
  • Include a call to action in your marketing -make it easy to act because people overall are lazy. Dropping a call to action on Facebook posts, drops conversion 98%.
  • People who visit your site from one referrer are likely to come from that source again. This is called referrer loyalty.
  • Half the views on Facebook posts come within the first 30 minutes. Look at your analytics to determine when to post.
  • What data can you use to inform call to actions? Test various language and design treatments: Book Appointment vs. Book Your Appointment. Free Trial vs. See Pricing & Plans.
  • Visual media really changes the perception of value and brand. Real images may convert better than professional ones. They are a genuine view of your experience.
  • Look for patterns in your data. Some campaigns take a while to convert.
  • Be iterative in your process. Use the data you collect to run further experiments.
  • Communicate your findings in your client's language. If they can't relate to the findings, they won't act on them.