Data-Driven Design Is Killing Our Instincts
Valuing data over design instinct puts metrics over users
Benek Lisefski August 13, 2019
Overreliance on data to drive design decisions can be just as harmful as ignoring it. Data only tells one kind of story. But your project goals are often more complex than that. Goals can’t always be objectively measured.
Data-driven design is about using information gleaned from both quantitative and qualitative sources to inform how you make decisions for a set of users. Some common tools used to collect data include user surveys, A/B testing, site usage and analytics, consumer research, support logs, and discovery calls.
Designers justified their value through their innate talent for creative ideas and artistic execution. Those whose instincts reliably produced success became rock stars.
In today’s data-driven world, that instinct is less necessary and holds less power. But make no mistake, there’s still a place for it.
Data is good at measuring things that are easy to measure. Some goals are less tangible, but that doesn’t make them less important.
Data has become an authoritarian who has fired the other advisors who may have tempered his ill will. A designer’s instinct would ask, “Do people actually enjoy using this?” or “How do these tactics reflect on our reputation and brand?”
Digital interface design is going through a bland period of sameness.
Data is only as good as the questions you ask
When to use data vs. when to use instinct
Deciding between two or three options? This is where data shines. Nothing is more decisive than an A/B test to compare potential solutions and see which one actually performs better. Make sure you’re measuring long-term value metrics and not just views and clicks.
Sweating product quality and aesthetics? Turn to your instinct. The overall feeling of quality is a collection of hundreds of micro-decisions, maintained consistency, and execution with accuracy. Each one of those decisions isn’t worth validating on its own. Your users aren’t design experts, so their feedback will be too subjective and variable. Trust your design senses when finessing the details.
Unsure about user behavior? Use data rather than asking for opinions. When asked what they’ll do, customers will do what they think you want them to. Instead, trust what they actually do when they think nobody’s looking.
Building brand and reputation? Data can’t easily measure this. But we all know trustworthiness is as important as clicks (and sometimes they’re opposing goals). When building long-term reputation, trust your instinct to guide you to what’s appealing, even if it sometimes contradicts short-term data trends. You have to play the long game here.
more on big data in this IMS blog