Measuring Designer’s Work, Part Deux

Long time ago I wrote about how to measure designer’s work, especially in tech-driven companies. I would like to add some more to that body of thoughts, particularly in terms of delivery and people management.


What is the measurable success factor for design delivery? Is it good implementation? Is it good conversion? Is it a good system to be handed off to client or teams? Or is it a good recommendation?

The answer depends on the industry and the company. Many consulting companies only go as far as recommendation after a long research, to be handed over to product development companies. Many also do it from end to end, which means, they deliver design assets and systems, and then work together with engineering or production teams to make it happen. Some design team work to improve design culture most of the time (although this should happen in every opportunity).

The problem is, the work that designers show don’t always be measurable in the short term, and they don’t always show in tangible ways. This is totally different with engineering (with shipped products) and with business or marketing (with conversion, sales or deals).

The result of a good design work comprises of three ways to look at: sastisfaction, delight and meaning.

Satisfaction is the basic of all design key performance indicators (God, I hate that word). It means that the product satisfies your needs. It gets the job done. For example, a flight reservation app can let the users buy and manage flights from end to end. It might have terrible UI or put all forms in one single page, but it gets the job done.

Delight means that the design fulfils the job in an optimised and pleasant (if not fun) manner. For example, the flight reservation app takes into account the user needs, expectations and limitations. If the user is mostly old people, they take into account readility and ergonomics catered specifically for them. It is delightful to the intended audience.

Meaning means the design affects the life of the users in positive ways, and the users want to advocate for the design or the product. In the case of the flight reservation app, it has become synonymous to delightful and functional travel app that people refer to on top of their mind. If the app name is “Flighty”, it’s sort of like the “Just google it”, but for flights. So, “Just flighty it!”.

So, really, you can’t measure the success of the designer or design team in the short term, nor in the judgment of whether there is something tangible or not.

People Management

In the same way as measuring product design success, it’s also a little tricky to measure the success of people management in design teams.

Much like a long-term investment in VCs, you have to invest time in design teams for them to spend time building their own process to work with products and other teams.

The results of engineering or business teams are much tangible, they can do something concrete by end of sprints.

The design team, however, although they can deliver visual assets by end of any week, the work is not confined into visual design. Their work is a long-term work of understanding the customers, building the design thinking culture inside the company, delivering the best design system one product or one client at a time.

The design quality is engrained inside every product they ship, but they’re not always visible, but always felt, particularly by the customers.

That said, the measure of success in people who design are more towards how well they understand the customers and how they balance that with the business needs. At the same time, it is also about how well they could work with (not for) engineering in a timely and efficient manner.

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

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