How to Use HEART Framework to Make the Right Product Decisions

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Piotr Golianek

Mar 14, 2022 • 11 min read
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Product managers are always searching for ways to make the process of developing products more efficient, and make sure they can bring the best products to consumers.

The HEART framework, which was initially designed for User Experience (UX) designers and researchers, can also be a useful methodology for product managers to use because it is based on gaining a greater understanding of user behavior and user preferences.

This article will help anybody involved in product management or product development. We’ll explain all about the HEART framework, why and when you should use it and how it can help you make the right product decisions in your development.

What is HEART framework?

HEART is a user-centric framework designed by UX Research experts at Google. It consists of 5 key elements:

Happiness

Happiness gauges how users feel about your product. It is a measure of user satisfaction, and you can measure it with e.g. Net Promoter Score (NPS), surveys, in-app ratings, reviews. This is extremely useful when checking what users think about the latest release of your product or the introduction of a new feature. This can then impact which features you keep and which new ones you choose to develop.

Engagement

Engagement measures user activity. Depending on your product, this could include number of sessions per week, number of likes or downloads, session length, or number or purchases, including other metrics. It is crucial to define, track and monitor appropriate user actions in your app, results will provide you precious insights about how users use your app, and while introducing some changes, you will be able to see the effects.

Adoption

Adoption measures the percentage of users who complete the onboarding process or trial and become regular users. It monitors how effective your acquisition and activation phases are and allows you to identify what helps make customers become regular users.

Retention

Retention measures the percentage of users who return to your product regularly. Negative retention is called churn, and will of course impact how your product performs in the market, so it’s key to keep track of who is and isn’t returning to your product and why.

Task success

Task success checks whether users are able to fulfill or complete their goals with your product effectively. Based on the results of these checks you can make changes to the functionality of your app, for example the back-end, to ensure the flow of information through the app is seamless and gives users the results they expect.

Who can use HEART framework

The HEART framework is normally used by user experience designers and user researchers, but it can help product managers as well, because of the insights it gives into the success of certain metrics and features of your product. Because the HEART framework is user centric, and all about how a product or app meets a customer’s needs, it is useful for anyone involved in product development.

How to use HEART framework to make the right product decisions

The HEART framework focuses on three main areas: goals, signals and metrics.

  • Goals

What do you want to achieve with your users from a UX perspective? Filling this out helps the product team to align targets and set a clear direction for each element of the framework.

  • Signals

Signals are user activities related to your goals. It helps you to monitor whether you are on the right track or not. It’s important to map your goals and user actions to find out whether there is any relation between them.

  • Metrics

These are numerical, measurable and trackable. You can measure them in real time. Each signal must be measured with an appropriate metric. After all, metrics will tell you if your goals have been achieved or not.

heart_framework_template
Source: Miro, HEART framework

This might sound a bit foggy at first, so let’s take a look at a real life example.

An example of using HEART framework

Let’s assume that you’re managing a new fintech app for instant mobile payments, without the need to use credit cards, like Google Pay or Apple Pay for example.

  • Your happiness goal would be: users find the app easy to use, secure and fast. Signals of this would be survey responses, leaving good ratings in Google Play Store and Apple App Store and other ways of sending feedback. Your metrics would be NPS (based on surveys and feedback) and the number of positive reviews.
  • Your engagement goal would be: users like your app and are more engaged with its features. Your signal would be that existing users are making more transactions, while your metrics would be measured with the number of transactions per user.
  • Your adoption goal would be: the number of new users seeing the value of our app. Signals for this would include downloading and launching the app, and you would measure these with download rates, registration rates and first successful transaction rate.
  • Your retention goal would be to ensure that users are coming back each month and continuing to make transactions. Your signals would be existing customers opening the app and making transactions, while your metrics would be churn rate, and the number of transactions per month per user in different cohorts or demographics.
  • Your task success goal would be that users are able to quickly - and without interruptions - finish their transactions. Your signal would successful completion of transactions, while your metrics would include the number of successful transactions, number of failed transactions, and the app crash rate.

It is important that HEART is not only a UX framework but it should be in the heart of each Product Manager as it’s data-driven and delivers many interesting and crucial insights about your users. You need to remember to track and measure your key metrics corresponding to your signals and to assign proper signals to goals.

Google designed HEART as a UX metrics framework to help User Experience designers target key UX measurements for improvement. When they created it, they understood that the various types of user data flowing through apps at all times could overwhelm designers.

Knowing this, and that their design teams didn't have a systematic way to measure user experience, they put together the HEART framework to help teams narrow their focus and work towards small, easier to understand metrics.

But how can product managers turn the Google Heart framework to their own advantage, making it a product adoption framework? Here are two main ways it can be utilized by PdMs:

Measure competing initiatives against each other

By assigning scores in each of the five categories, PdMs can compare different initiatives by using user-centric metrics to determine which features have the greatest chance of delivering value and success for the company and the customer.

Examples of this include: will the increased adoption promised by a particular feature outweigh what is offered by another feature? Does customer happiness or engagement increase the chances of success more? These are all questions the HEART framework can help product teams answer.

Monitor HEART metrics results to make improvement over time

Product managers can also measure metrics over time to see how features and functions are resonating with users. They can then use this information to make better decisions about products in the future, or even to introduce changes to current products to improve value.

In this way, product managers can use HEART to make decisions about what features they need to add or take away from the product, and prioritize resources based on that information.

Main benefits of using the framework for product management

We’ve already touched on some of the benefits of using the HEART framework for product management, but let’s take a deeper look.

Firstly, it helps to identify crucial patterns or trends with your product, such as whether your app is being adopted properly by users, or features that are preventing them from returning and causes customer churn.

Knowing this information is vital to refining and improving your product over time and enhance the success of these metrics. If you know, for example, that a form your user has to fill is too long or glitchy, and causing them to leave the app in frustration, you can amend this feature to make it more accessible and convenient.

It also helps you to identify specific elements which can have a strategic impact on your product. Certain elements will be more important to achieving your strategic goals than others because of the way they boost certain metrics. Think about our Fintech example above: the number of completed transactions is clearly a highly important metric, as it figures in numerous ‘goals’ - so using the HEART framework can help identify ways of increasing this number.

It can also provide insights about what elements can lead to increased revenue for your business. Are there certain features or functions in your app that facilitate consumers spending more money? You want to focus on making these features seamless and easy to use.

Also, if your app relies on ad revenue, you can see where customers spend the most time - for example, reading an article or FAQ section - and this can make that section of the app more attractive to advertisers. This is all quite simple, but the HEART framework helps you track and measure these numbers to react to them as soon as possible.

Challenges of using HEART framework

Although there are lots of benefits to the HEART framework, there are some challenges too.

For example, the need to brainstorm different goals, signals and metrics can create some confusion, and there is some overlap between the different categories which can cause unnecessary work. For example, if a signal for engagement is that users are returning to make transactions, this is already covered in the ‘metric’ for retention.

Also, HEART doesn’t necessarily measure or account for the interplay between the five different categories. How does adoption, for example, affect retention? If you change something to improve adoption, you might change something by accident that was helping retention.

This framework also does run the risk of trying to make the data available to product managers fit a certain goal, rather than simply analyzing the data to see what customers want in the first place.

Using HEART framework in product management

As we can see, there are some drawbacks to the HEART framework. But we’ve also seen the several benefits it can bring to product management teams - it is a relatively simple, easy to remember framework which can give you great insights into how you can improve your product for customers.

There is no shortage of frameworks out there which propose to help product development teams manage their projects, and it can be confusing to decide which to use. If you are thinking about using the HEART framework for your next product, and are unsure how to get started, get in touch with our product management experts at Netguru today, we’d love to help you out.

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Piotr Golianek

Piotr Golianek works as a Product Manager at Netguru.
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