Measuring Designer’s Work and Reputation

Most of the time designer’s work cannot be measured in numbers or in tangible ways. Designer’s work will prove its benefits in the long-term, not in the short-term. It plays in the area of personal and communal experience of the product, and even if conversion spikes up, it does not guarantee a “great experience”. It’s just the team has found a way to hack people’s attention to converting into sales or results. People can still dread using the product.

For example, I found out how easy it is to book an Uber car. Flawless and punctual most of the time—if it’s not in Indonesia, by the way. The app is super responsive. However, I will still find friction in my Uber experience. I still have to call and explain to the driver where to pick me up exactly. Because the nature of a car is to go forward only, and the nature of traffic rules tend to limit movements, it can be a tiresome experience. Calling your driver for 5 times just to explain in details where you are, especially in a place without landmarks, is a pain.

Compare this to the experience I have with YesBoss, a new Indonesia-based digital personal assistant whose interface only comprises of text messages. I don’t have to make any call, just type. I ordered drinks from nearby supermarkets one late night and I received it in just under 30 minutes, all without a call.

Frictions can mean anything to anyone, but for me, it’s when I have to make a call. Repeatedly. It takes away my attention.

So, a flawless user experience or user interface design can even have loopholes, even the high-converting ones. A good design team would try to propose solutions to overcome these frictions gradually, over time and countless iterations and experiments, that span across multiple cases — business, technology, marketing and customer experience. The result is not instant. High conversion is instant, but brandlove is long-term. It’s what happens when customers evangelise your products and stay true even if it has glitches.

It is hard to measure a designer’s work impact. I hope more people appreciate this and realise this. You can’t hire a designer just to launch your product, but you have to keep them and engage with them continuously.

Puth faith in them in the long-term.

If they fail now, it means they’re learning. Your team ought to have big rooms to fail, otherwise the team cannot innovate.

This also means that, in people management perspective, you cannot measure designers the same way you measure engineers. Designers are not exactly consensus-driven. They have certain considerations in defence of the customers that can prove to be the opposite of what business wants. They might disagree with the team, and look like a team of “rebels”, when they advocate for good design.

The same goes with design leadership. It’s true that the best leaders are the ones who can compromise and maintain a “good relationship” with others. However, for design, this also means they need to take customer’s side many times, and that does not mean that it’s us against the team.

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Reflections on digital product design, travel, food and the in-betweens. Finding my compass.

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