Where to Start

How to become a data-driven UX designer

Post by
Steven Cohn
How to become a data-driven UX designer

A great design requires a focus on outcomes. A great designer uses data to learn and iterate on their designs. 

As a UX Designer, it’s part of the job to understand how your designs are impacting business goals. To do that properly, you need direct access to outcome-driven metrics. Collecting data, metrics, and having a view into analytics on your product is the only way to know if your UX work is having a positive impact on your customers and your business. Accessing that data, first hand is crucial. 

How do I measure UX Outcomes?

A designer should ask the following 5 questions - before starting a design project - to make sure they are designing for outcomes:

  1. What problem are we solving for the user? 
  2. Which customer persona are we trying to help?
  3. What business goals are we hoping to achieve? 
  4. What customer outcomes will signal that we are improving business goals? 
  5. How are we going to measure these outcomes?

These are key questions every Designer needs to be asking every time a new design project kicks off. 

Do I need to use analytics myself? Or can I get the data from someone else on my team?

Many UX Designers rely upon a Product Manager or Business Analyst to provide data. This approach creates a lot of challenges for a UX Designer, including:

  1. Getting the data that you need in a timely manner. All too often Designers request data and have to go back and forth several times before what they need is delivered. By the time the data is received, it may be too late to act on it.
  2. Making sure the data that you need is being tracked. Once you identify the data you need (asking about outcomes as per the first point), the next hurdle to tackle is tracking those metrics. Sometimes the data the Designer needs is tactical and specific to a certain customer journey whereas PMs and BAs may be focusing on broader, big picture metrics. Once you know the data you need, it’s important to inform your stakeholders or partners in order to start consistently tracking those metrics.
  3. Just the facts. While many teams work in pod structures and obtain data from Product Managers, that data is already editorialized by a human to tell a specific story. To properly deduce how your designs are impacting the customer, product, or overall strategy, you need to see the data firsthand. Proof of this can be seen when watching a user research session along with your PM. The majority of the time, a Designer and the PM will have different takeaways– and the same phenomenon happens with interpreting data.

In an agile product development work environment, a Designer needs immediate access to data for a design project. A good Designer is infinitely curious about how well their designs are working and the impact they’re having on the customer’s success. You can trust your PM to get some of the data but it’s always valuable to see things for yourself.

Data helps Designers make better decisions for the customer. To have the kind of impact that we know great user experience design can have on our products and services, we have to democratize access to the data. Without direct access to data insights, design teams are in the dark and are left hoping their designs land somewhere near what the customer wants and the business needs. It might be frightening to review the data and discover that your designs or experiences didn’t have the impact you expected. But, being wrong is a great opportunity for learning. The best agile product development teams are able to explicitly talk about what went wrong and iterate on the product to drive user outcomes that achieve business goals. 


This article was written based on a conversation with our newest advisory board member, Jeff Gothelf.