Probably the hardest part to make people understand when introducing them to UX is that for a successful outcome we have to set goals. In this article I hope to explore that idea and what it actually means. I’ve had to “educate” quite a few colleagues on what I mean when I say we need to set goals and I’m guessing quite a few of you out there might have had the same problem.
What do I mean by Goals?
I remember the first time I mentioned setting up a goal for a project, the answer I got back was “more results of course!” Seems straight forward correct? But in truth what am I saying? What is a result exactly? More revenue? Lower bounce rate? More traffic? The options are endless, which means that without set goals almost anything getting better results could mean the project was a success.
The Goals should be specific objectives the business feels it needs to reach. To set a goal, we need to find out what is measurable and what is important for the product’s success.
A good example is re-designing a whole site to update the look and feel, because we “want better results”. The overall goal is to make the user’s experience better. We might be succesful in creating the most incredible experience, site traffic goes through the roof and our site shows up everywhere as the site to follow and an example on how to create something incredible. However, if our goal was to increase revenue of our products or increase awareness of humanitarian work, the incredible new site might not change anything. We suddenly have thousands of people spending hours on our site, but they don’t actually buy anything or read any of the content, they just play around with the interactions or look at the layout for inspiration.
The above example shows how important setting a specific goal is when creating the UX. If the goal was well established from the beginning and the business knew what data it would use to measure the success of the project, the designers and developers would have created the experience with that goal in mind. They could still design a great experience, but they could do it in a way that it met the business needs.
So how does one know if the goal is viable?
To understand if a Goal is viable I think it’s important to consider 3 aspect:
- Do you have the technology and resources to build it?
- Can you measure its success? What data will determine this?
- Is it important to the business needs?
If we don’t consider all of these 3 points, we are literally just guessing and hoping we’re doing something right.
“I don’t need goals, my product has always shown growth!”
Any product can easily show positive results in the beginning, especially if you’re offering something that doesn’t exist. The potential for growth from nothing is always exponential, but what happens when your product has reached its peak growth for your “guessing game”? What happens if you’ve reached the highest amount of customers you could convince into buying your product without strategy?
Suddenly you might see the results plateau. Your customers might begin to complain that your product has no new features that interest them or that it hasn’t been able to keep a standard that makes it better than it’s competitors. This happens a lot when companies grow so large and manage to get a monopoly on a specific area or service. They get a false sense of security that no one will ever be able to compete with them or their products.
Kodak and Quark Xpress are just 2 examples of this. Suddenly some college dropout who knows a little more about emerging technologies decides he can build something better out of his parent’s garage. A few years later the big names are forced to adapt their whole strategy to try to cope with this new agile business model or sink. Some manage to survive, others go bankrupt and we see multi-billion dollar companies that were “untouchable” floundering for air.
Setting simple specific goals with a measurable objective can go a long way in keeping your product or brand fresh. It can help you to second guess decisions that seemed set in stone before and re-analyse how they might need to change.
This practice could even turn a large unadaptable businesses into ever evolving and agile businesses. Even traditional companies may be able to avoid being left behind in the dust.
All it takes is understanding that objective goals are more important than just saying “I want to sell more” or “I want more traffic on my site”. A goal helps you set a road map to reaching your objectives.
How do you decide your goals? How important has setting goals been for you?