How Do You Measure Success in Design?

Photo of Maria Szepel

Maria Szepel

Updated May 8, 2024 • 24 min read
How Do You Measure Success in Design?

Good design is key to business success. It can increase customer satisfaction, boost sales, and help create business value.

Design success is not accidental; it’s guided by key principles that marry aesthetics with functionality. In this exploration, we decode the “guidelines that define the success of the design”, ensuring it resonates with users and aligns with business objectives. Join us as we outline how clear goals, user-centric strategies, and measurable business outcomes can signal triumph in design.

Key Takeaways

  • Design success is founded on the establishment of clear objectives that are user-centered, aligned with business KPIs, and measurable to evaluate the impact on business performance.

  • Success in design derives from a strong, iterative design process that incorporates user feedback, utilizes diverse tools and techniques, and is assessed using engagement, NPS, and task success rate metrics.

  • A balanced approach to creativity and usability, employing both to address user needs innovatively while ensuring functionality and user-friendliness is essential for creating successful designs.

According to McKinsey’s The Business Value of Design report, the companies that are strong at design show superior business performance and outperform industry-benchmark growth by as much as two to one.

Nowadays, many businesses are putting responsibility on design leaders to prove the value of design: The State of Design 2021 study shows that 57% of respondents must measure and report team outcomes to their organization. It is expected from design teams to tie up design with company strategy, goals, and revenue targets. However, it is not easy to measure the impact design has on business.

The questions arise: What metrics should be monitored to measure the impact on the business’ bottom line? What KPIs should be tracked and what frameworks to use to measure design success? We invited Senior Product Designers, Heads of UX and Design, and Design Team Leads to share with us their insights into how they measure and report the outcomes of design for their companies.

Establishing Clear Objectives for Design Triumph

Design success primarily hinges on:

  • Setting clear objectives that navigate the design process

  • Defining user-centered goals that cater to user needs and preferences

  • Aligning with business KPIs to ensure design efforts contribute to overall business success

  • Measuring design’s impact on overall performance.

This approach enables design teams to chart a clear route towards design excellence, with each action contributing meaningfully to the results.

Defining User-Centered Goals

Prioritizing the user in each decision is paramount for design success. User-centered goals serve as a compass, guiding designers toward solutions that address user needs, demands, and experiences. By emphasizing understanding the user, we can measure success in design projects and ensure that the design outcomes align with the target audience’s needs and desired actions.

This focus on the user boosts customer satisfaction and adds to the overall business value by meeting user needs and expectations.

Aligning with Business KPIs

Design objectives are not just about meeting user needs; they also need to align with business KPIs. Design strategies and objectives should harmonize with the mission, vision, and values of the business, with objectives formulated using the SMART concept. Identifying KPIs that mirror the business goals and brand strategy is critical to ensure that design efforts contribute to overall business success.

When KPIs are in line with business goals, it allows designers to construct KPIs based on user behaviors, tailor them to business processes, and make KPIs quantifiable, ensuring an all-encompassing alignment of user experience design with business KPIs.

Measuring Design's Impact

Measuring the impact of design on business performance is a key element in validating investments and demonstrating value. By establishing KPIs, aligning design projects with KPIs, evaluating customer feedback, and analyzing performance, designers can align their work with business metrics or outcomes. Essential performance indicators, such as:

  • Conversion rates

  • Engagement

  • Revenue

  • User satisfaction

  • Task completion rate

  • Bounce rate

By analyzing the advertising campaign, we can provide valuable insights into the design’s efficacy and its contribution to business performance.

Demonstrating ROI from design projects and acknowledging the tangible benefits of design investment can boost business performance and deliver considerable value.

Crafting a Robust Design Process

After setting clear objectives, the subsequent step towards design victory involves developing a strong design process. A robust design process allows for:

  • Continuous improvement

  • Incorporating iteration

  • Refinement

  • User feedback

  • Leveraging appropriate tools and techniques.

Robust design processes foster environments that promote learning, testing, and iteration with users, enabling the design team to create adaptable designs and achieve higher product quality, lower manufacturing costs, and increased customer satisfaction.

Iteration and Refinement

Iteration and refinement are cornerstones of a robust design process. They facilitate testing, evaluation, and enhancement of prototypes and solutions to ensure alignment with the project’s needs and objectives. Through initial planning, development work, and refinement by trial and error, designers can enhance designs through iterative processes, testing prototypes to ensure they effectively meet the requirements, and refining through a methodical approach.

Empowering designers to learn from missteps and integrate user feedback, iteration and refinement act as essential tools for securing design success.

Incorporating User Feedback

User feedback plays a pivotal role in the design process. It provides valuable insights into user preferences, requirements, and expectations, which can be effectively integrated into the design process to elevate overall usability. Collecting feedback, assessing it, and making subsequent modifications if required, allows designers to promote continuous improvement, culminating in designs that adeptly fulfill user needs and preferences.

Leveraging Tools and Techniques

The utilization of various tools and techniques can greatly enhance the design process. Some of these tools include:

  • High-fidelity prototypes

  • Mid-fidelity wireframes

  • Low-fidelity sketches

  • Simple diagrams like sitemaps

  • Prototyping software

These tools aid in the creation of adaptable designs and the enhancement of the product or process. In addition, design software and prototyping tools can foster effective collaboration, improve design-developer handoffs, eliminate guesswork, accelerate stakeholder reviews, and ensure consistency in messaging and presentation.

By harnessing these tools and techniques, designers can simplify the design process, boost collaboration, and produce top-tier design results.

Evaluating Design Performance with Key Metrics

The path to design success does not terminate at the creation of a strong design process. It is equally important to evaluate design performance using key metrics. These metrics, which include engagement, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and task success rate, provide valuable insights into how well a design is performing, and how well it is meeting user needs and business objectives.

Engagement Metrics

Engagement metrics provide valuable insights into user interaction with designs. They measure the level of user involvement with a product or service, assessing the frequency, intensity, or depth of interaction with the product.

Monitoring engagement metrics allows designers to extract actionable insights for design enhancement and overall user experience improvement. Some key engagement metrics to monitor include:

  • Session depth

  • Time on page

  • Bounce rate

  • Scroll depth

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) serves as an effective measure of user satisfaction and loyalty. By subtracting the percentage of detractors (individuals unlikely to recommend) from the percentage of promoters (individuals likely to recommend), designers can gauge the level of user satisfaction and loyalty, which are pivotal indicators of design success.

NPS further sheds light on the design’s efficacy in fulfilling user needs and expectations, serving as a vital metric for evaluating design success.

Task Success Rate

Task success rate serves as a significant indicator of a design’s ability to assist users in reaching their objectives. By computing the percentage of tasks that have been accomplished, designers can assess the effectiveness of their designs in helping users achieve their goals.

Guaranteeing a high task success rate enhances the overall user experience and aids in realizing comprehensive design success.

Analyzing Data for Informed Design Decisions

Data analysis plays a vital role in making informed design decisions. Utilizing quantitative data analysis, amassing qualitative insights, and implementing data-driven revisions can aid designers in delving deeper into user behaviors, discovering patterns, and making informed decisions that uplift the user experience.

Quantitative Data Analysis

Quantitative data analysis provides an objective measurement of design performance. By examining and interpreting numerical data, designers can gain insights into:

  • User behavior

  • Interaction with the design

  • User needs

  • User preferences

  • User experiences

This allows for a comprehensive understanding of user needs, preferences, and experiences, thus informing design decisions and leading to superior designs.

Qualitative Insights

While quantitative data provides objective insights, qualitative data offers a deeper understanding of user experiences, behaviors, and attitudes. By gathering qualitative insights through techniques like interviews and surveys, designers can uncover patterns and user preferences that may not be evident in quantitative data.

These insights can direct design decisions, guaranteeing that designs proficiently cater to user needs and expectations.

Making Data-Driven Revisions

Data-driven revisions allow designers to refine their designs based on factual insights. By interpreting data and incorporating the insights into design revisions, designers can continuously improve their designs, ensuring they effectively address user needs and expectations. This iterative approach to design, driven by data, ensures that designs remain relevant and effective, contributing to overall design success.

Ensuring Accessibility and Inclusivity

A successful design is accessible and inclusive, catering to a diverse range of users. Adhering to accessibility standards and adopting a design for diversity approach allows designers to create user-friendly designs that accommodate the needs and preferences of all users, irrespective of their abilities or backgrounds.

Adherence to Standards

Adherence to accessibility standards is crucial in creating designs that cater to all users. By following guidelines such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), designers can ensure that their designs are accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities. Adhering to these standards not only ensures accessibility but also enhances usability, satisfaction, and engagement with the product or service.

Design for Diversity

Design diversity plays a key role in creating inclusive and user-friendly designs. By embracing diversity in their designs, designers can ensure that their designs cater to a diverse range of users, accommodating different:

  • Cultures

  • Languages

  • Genders

  • Abilities

By addressing potential areas of exclusion and drawing insights from diversity, designers can develop solutions that address multiple challenges, thereby creating designs that are truly inclusive and user-friendly.

Fostering Effective Communication within Design Teams

Effective communication within design teams is crucial in achieving design success. Fostering collaboration, disseminating design vision, and setting up feedback loops can facilitate more effective teamwork within design teams, leading to superior design outcomes and enhanced productivity.

Collaboration Techniques

Collaboration is a key aspect of effective communication within design teams. By fostering collaboration and teamwork, design teams can work together more effectively, leading to improved design outcomes and increased productivity.

Effective collaboration techniques can enhance creativity and innovation, leading to heightened productivity, and enhancing task management and communication.

Sharing Design Vision

Sharing design vision is crucial to ensure all team members are aligned with project goals. By aligning the vision with team members’ interests and requirements, and engaging the team in the vision development process, designers can ensure that all team members have a uniform vision for the product experience.

This alignment is instrumental in maintaining focus and coherence within the project.

Feedback Loops

Feedback loops are an essential part of effective communication within design teams. They provide a platform for continuous improvement and learning, enabling designers to gain insights from their users, validate their assumptions, and enhance their solutions.

By establishing clear objectives and cultivating a culture of constructive criticism, design teams can create effective feedback loops that drive continuous improvement.

The HEART Framework: A Guide to Comprehensive Evaluation

To evaluate design success holistically, we can utilize the Google HEART framework. This framework, which focuses on:

  • Happiness

  • Engagement

  • Adoption

  • Retention

  • Task success

provides a comprehensive guide to measuring user experience and assessing the caliber of a design.


Happiness, the first component of the HEART framework, gauges the level of satisfaction or happiness that users experience with the overall usage of the product or service. This self-reported metric serves as an indicator of user satisfaction and a measure of design success.


Engagement, the second component of the HEART framework, assesses the degree of user involvement with a product or service. By measuring engagement, designers can gauge the extent to which users actively participate and engage with the design, as opposed to merely passively consuming it.

This allows designers to ascertain whether the design effectively captures and sustains user interest, providing a crucial metric for assessing design success.

Adoption and Retention

Adoption and retention, the final components of the HEART framework, provide valuable insights into the long-term success of a design. By monitoring adoption and retention rates, designers can evaluate the effectiveness of their designs in attracting and retaining users over time. This allows designers to ascertain the long-term success of their designs, providing a crucial metric for assessing design success.

Balancing Creativity with Usability

In the quest for design success, achieving a balance between creativity and usability is critical. While creativity can lead to innovative design solutions, usability ensures that these solutions are user-friendly and meet user needs.

To achieve this balance, designers should:

  1. Employ creative problem-solving techniques to generate innovative design ideas.

  2. Give precedence to usability by considering user needs and preferences throughout the design process.

  3. Undertake user testing to validate design decisions and ensure that the final product is user-centric and functional.

By following these steps, experienced designers can create designs that are both creative and usable, resulting in a successful and satisfying user experience.

Creativity in Problem Solving

Creativity plays a crucial role in problem-solving within the design process. By addressing issues from fresh and diverse perspectives, designers can devise innovative solutions that are not constrained by conventional thinking.

Through the application of design thinking, creativity can lead to:

  • Innovative solutions that cater to user needs

  • Addressing pain points in distinctive and compelling manners

  • A more pleasurable and fulfilling user experience

  • Heightened user engagement and loyalty

Prioritizing Usability

While creativity can lead to innovative solutions, usability ensures that these solutions are user-friendly and functional. By prioritizing usability, designers can ensure that their designs effectively meet user needs and expectations, thereby improving the overall user experience.

Ensuring a product or system’s ease of use and learning contributes to improving the overall user experience and ultimately, design success.

User Testing for Validation

User testing holds a critical role in validating design decisions and confirming that designs meet user needs and expectations. By soliciting individuals to assess their satisfaction with a product or experience, designers can gain valuable insights into user behavior, preferences, and satisfaction, thereby guiding design decisions and leading to superior designs.

Darya Luganskaya, Senior Product Designer at Revolut

How Do You Measure Success in Design (4) (1)

In design-driven companies, it is not that hard to argue about the importance of design, while it is not always the case for others. To evaluate the effect of design, businesses can set some metrics indicating if their customers are happy with the service, such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS). It shows what percentage of customers would recommend a company to friends and family.

Another useful metric is retention - it shows how many people come back for a second purchase. Churn rate would help measure how many customers stopped using a service over some time and engagement metrics will help understand how many people make more than one purchase. Other factors outside of design can contribute to metrics, e.g. how support operates, so it is important to dig deeper and make sure design changes are tracked well.

Across the company we measure the Net Promoter Score (NPS). It shows what percentage of customers who would recommend a company to friends and family. People are asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how likely they are to recommend this service to a friend. There are specific metrics for each feature developed by a particular team, but I don't think I can share those.

Robin Lantz & Marcus Johansson, Senior Design Leads at Klarna

Klarna Robin Lantz Marcus Johansson

There’s no easy way of measuring design’s impact on business. Especially because the role of design within a business might be different from company to company. Apple and Maersk probably have two very different setups for designers but both probably have invested in design. We do believe though that design is an integral part of impacting the business performance and that if the design is good you should be able to see how it is positively impacting the business metrics.

Sometimes it can be dangerous to draw the line too hard between business and design. If the business is considered successful and design is a vital part of the organisation - then it might be enough to draw conclusions. We collaborate with stakeholders from engineering, product management, and design to figure out what is most important to measure.

Priya Sinha, Head of Product Development and Customer Solution at Vodafone Group

Priya Sinha quote

Business growth is not a 1:1 relationship with product design. Firstly, we need to define the business value the product is trying to fulfil and measure it as a Customer Performance Index (business costs, efficiency or CSI). Next is the need to define top product capabilities with metrics as minimum success criteria. Design performance is measured against these criteria. Some examples could be stock availability, pluggability score etc. We then define clear use cases and draw a boundary on what the product can and can’t do. We ensure all happy and unhappy paths have been considered. Some performance metrics are:

  • Metrics on agreed success criteria. Product Usability Index for ease of use of platform and Product Enrichment Index to release features using future-proof designs.
  • Easy referrals from customers and constant feedback from real users.
  • SLAs and % Fallouts against industry standards. Customer escalation to record empathy.
  • Internal KPIs (reduced opex, increased automation) are often missed!

Here are some examples of metrics for design performance that we track:

  • Stock availability,
  • Inventory costs,
  • Product Usability Index, such as the ease of use of a platform,
  • Product Enrichment Index to deliver enhanced features within shorter cycles, SLAs,
  • Business and technical fallouts and Internal Satisfaction Index (ISI) regarding delivering internal KPIs such as reduced opex etc.

Dave Bowker, Head of Design at GFT

Dave Bowker quote

If your routes are being run then you measure satisfaction, if they're not being run then you need new routes! We measure workflow efficiency. When designing software for business, most tasks are either investigative and/or repetitive, so creating an experience that optimizes user workflows is key.

Fernanda Enrigue, Design Team Lead at Lengoo

Fernanda Enrigue quote

I will say, however, that using part of the Google HEART framework always makes sense:

  • Happiness,
  • Engagement,
  • Adoption,
  • Retention,
  • Task success.

Happiness can be tracked with frequent surveys. Adoption and Retention are easy metrics to assess but hard to achieve. User Testing is perfect to measure Engagement and Task Success. Testing on its own can however be difficult to implement, especially in smaller companies under budget constraints and time pressure. But I see it as the only way to really measure the impact of design.

I also believe that showing the value of user testing is our job as designers. There are ways to do user testing without a big budget or long data processing times. It's a matter of creating smart processes and having a strong relationship with your users. We track project times and user experience with the Google HEART framework that I mentioned before. Both of them are aligned with our Product and Marketing KPIs.

Samantha Lim, Senior Product Designer at Finleap

Samantha Lim quote

The metrics that companies should track to measure design’s impact should be aligned with the objectives of the redesign. For instance, if the redesign aims to improve conversion rate by simplifying the application funnel, the metric to focus on should be the conversion rate. On top of that, companies can also understand customer satisfaction by

  • tracking customer reviews,
  • customer feedback,
  • sign up rates,
  • drop off rates,
  • time spent interacting with the product,
  • product referrals.

Depending on the stage of the product and design, the ‘KPIs’ I would look out for differ. If the product is launched and a sufficient user base has been established, I’ll track key experience indicators (KEIs) on top of KPIs. Earlier in the design process, it is important to figure out what KEIs are important and why. Who are our target customers? What are the user benefits? KEIs should be specific to the product and user context.

Luky Primadani, Senior UX Designer & Researcher at FlixBus

How Do You Measure Success in Design (3)

Some companies tend to focus more on behavioral metrics such as conversion rate and retention rate for example, but not so much attitudinal, like satisfaction or perceived ease of use. NPS should not be the only way to measure the attitudinal metric; perceived ease of use and average satisfaction score could be other metrics to track customer's happiness besides NPS.

Some of them are:

  • Conversion Rate,
  • Retention,
  • Engagement,
  • Customer Lifetime Value,
  • NPS.

I don't think we have a specific framework to use, but we are in the process of establishing a framework that could be used for both digital and offline experiences.

Joe Allison, Head of UX and Design at Monese

Joe Allison quote

We break Retention into MOM churn, month 3 churn, and month 6 churn, and aim to track and improve on these with new features and design improvements to existing features. On the Revenue side, we measure ARPU - average revenue per active user. We use a system that's loosely based on the HEART framework, tracking a set of user behavior and user emotion metrics. The individual metrics we track are tailored to be relevant for each feature. Emotion includes: sentiment score, ease of use, appearance, trust, loyalty. Behavior includes: task success, time, adoption.

The challenges of measuring design impact in business

In conclusion, mastering design success involves a multifaceted approach that spans from setting clear objectives, crafting a robust design process, evaluating performance with key metrics, analyzing data for informed decisions, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity, fostering effective communication within design teams, to balancing creativity with usability. By embracing these guidelines, designers can navigate the path to design success with confidence and precision, creating designs that not only meet user needs and business objectives but also contribute to a more inclusive and user-friendly digital landscape.

The experts’ statements confirm that design is an integral part of impacting the business performance. Setting the right metrics reflecting on business context and goals can empower design teams to show that design has a positive impact on the business's bottom line.

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Maria Szepel

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