Design for success: Manage business and user goals

Laura Klein on what makes a successful designer and how we should measure the success of product designs.


Register for the UX Design for Growth — Improving User Conversion training session with Laura Klein. In this online, interactive training workshop, Klein, author of “UX for Lean Startups,” will teach you to design for product growth.

Designers have become more and more integral to the success of their organizations. This increase in visibility and responsibility requires new skills, a greater understanding of the goals of the business, the ability to work with a wider variety of stakeholders within the organization, and new ways to measure the success of design work. I recently spoke with Laura Klein, designer, researcher, engineer, and author of UX for Lean Startups and the popular design blog Users Know, about these topics.

Understanding the goals of the business

In discussing the essential skill set for designers today, Klein explains why designers need to understand what their organization is trying to accomplish and why they should get comfortable working with people outside of the design team:

I think nowadays we really have to understand what the business goals are and also what the user goals are, and how those two things can work together to make a great experience for the customer that also helps the business. … More and more, we’re really working on cross-functional teams, which I think is wonderful. It might mean that we’re working with a marketing person and an engineer or several engineers, and a product manager. We’re no longer just working off in our little silos with all the other designers, when all we have to do is talk design. We’re working with a really diverse group of people … I think it’s better for products, but it does mean we have to know how to communicate with more types of people. Learning how to do that can be incredibly important.

Ship it

Klein also explains why you’re wasting your time if you’re not shipping your design:

The one thing I will say is your design should ship, and that’s something that I really want to drill into young designers: I don’t care how pretty it is; I don’t care if your boss liked it; I don’t care if all the other designers tell you how neat it is or how cool it is or whatever. If it didn’t ship, then you didn’t make an end product. You made a deliverable, but you didn’t make an end product.

I understand sometimes we don’t have 100% control over whether our products actually ship, and that’s unfortunate, but we should be thinking not just about what the perfect experience would be, but what’s the best experience that we can actually get into users’ hands? That matters. It could be the most wonderful design in the world, but if we can’t build it or if we can’t ship it for whatever reason, then it didn’t do any good; it was a waste of time.

How do you spell success?

Once a design is shipped, how should a designer measure its success? Klein elaborates on the metrics for success and reiterates that designers’ work must solve problems for both the user and the business:

To a large extent, we measure success — or we should be measuring success — in design the same way that everybody should be measuring success in a product, which is: does it do for the business what we wanted it to do, and does it do for the users what we wanted it to do? Does it solve a problem for both the business and the user? We can measure that with metrics.

I think too often, in large companies especially, products are measured on things like, ‘did we ship something, did we get a version 2.0, was there a new version of the product, did we completely rewrite something?’ I think that’s a travesty. We need to be measuring based on, ‘did it solve problems for the business and the user?’ That just comes down to, ‘okay, well what kind of long-term revenue is this creating for my company? What’s the retention look like? Are my users happy? Are they sticking around? Are they continuing to buy from me? Are they continuing to buy from me because they want to and because they’re really happy with my product, or is it because they’re somehow locked in? Am I making them unhappy in some way?’ I think that’s the way we should be measuring success in companies, in products.

You can listen to the entire interview in the player above, or through our O’Reilly SoundCloud stream.

For an opportunity to learn more from Laura Klein about how to design products that convert and retain users, check out her upcoming online training, UX Design for Growth — Improving User Conversion. The training will be held September 15, 2015, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. PT. Space is limited — registration is now open.

This interview is part of our ongoing investigation into Experience Design and Business.

Public domain image on article and category pages via Wikimedia Commons.

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