4 Ways To Use Data To Improve UX Design

Written by
May 20,2020

Data has mysteries inside it. And it would take a detective to make sense out of all those mysteries. The outcome, hence collected, is termed as insights. Companies across the world have been betting big on data and everything around it.  

From streamlining their processes to boosting revenue by giving themselves the extra edge over the competition, companies and organizations are using data to meet their goals.

use data to improve UX design

Similarly, data is being leveraged by companies across the world to improve how their products perform and interact with the customers. This has led them to use data at various levels of UX design.  

While it seemed outlandish a few years ago, it is a reality now. Especially with all the cutting-edge tools at the disposal of designers and product managers these days. Using data to improve UX design is no more a distant dream for good product teams. 

As Braden Kowitz, the great pioneer in big data would put it: 

Statistics help us summarize and understand the hard data we collect, and instincts do the same for all the messy real-world experiences we observe. And that’s why the best products — the ones that people want to use, love to use — are built with a bit of both.

Important and Need of Data for UX Design

For a better part of big data’s history, design and data have been two separate segments, or disciplines when it came to product development. 

Now Data has intertwined with UX design and there are no two ways about it. As companies are able to gather, monitor, and find insights from millions of data points gathered by their customers interacting with their products, they are able to find patterns that once used to be put in the category of a mere hunch. 

To put one example forward, take the example of Netflix. Netflix collects tons of data from its nearly 180 million users in different forms and for different things. These include the very basic things such as how much time a person spends in finding a show to even how viewers use the replay button. 

Netflix collects this data, runs it through simulations, and then finds problems that the customer is not even looking to resolve just yet. This is the best example of how a proactive UX team should be working.

  • Analytics Matter - Designing UX for apps and websites was more of a creative occupation rather than an act of science. It hasn’t just changed but revolutionized over the last couple of years.

    Today, designers and product managers are using insights from data to create designs that are not a mere show of fluency with colors and design software, but of great understanding about the product that it is being used for. Not only this, but analytics are also important to validate the findings or hypotheses pitched by the UX designers

Ways to use Data for a better UX Design

Designers and product managers can leverage data to make their products better. The first step to using data for improving UX design is to gather it properly so that one can churn actionable insights out of it. 

For decades, UX research teams and product managers have been working with focus groups and C-suite execs to identify what they are going to build. Today, all they gotta do is focus on the data. The bias can be ruled out now, almost completely. 

The first level of data that a design team should assess is web analytics, or the developer dashboard when it comes to mobile apps. They should be able to understand the performance of various pages and screens in the given product. Following this, they can take cues on what is working and what is broken. 

Following this, the design team can focus on the more sophisticated methods of analytics in determining the UX performance of a product. This includes heatmap analysis and session recordings for various users. 

These tools can prove out to be really helpful in analyzing the user behavior with reference to each and every design element of your product. Not only this, but the UX design team can also now identify patterns in how users interact with the product. And also find the right reasons that cause a customer to abandon midway of a transaction. 

Maybe there’s a button that is not in the right place. Or maybe a text is not coherent. All of this, the very minute details, can be identified by teams that leverage heatmap analysis and real-time session recordings. 

  • Defining User Personas from the data - Once data is gathered, the product team now has to go through all of it and identify certain groups that have users with common behavior between them. Say a person likes to shut down the app and then open it again to go from one screen to another distant screen. Weird, but a problem for you to solve. Right?
  • Going with the task models - To craft and implement a successful UX design for a product is important to set task models for various parts of the workflows and then get the whole team with various cross-section members cooperating with each other. 

After all, the art of product development is less about individual prowess and more about a constructive collaboration between the different stakeholders in the product development phase. 

In a perfect task model, the whole situation about what we want to achieve or solve is documented in an easy to understand manner. This documentation is then used as a reference for monitoring the progress of the UX revamp. 

Not only this, but the various metrics about the users also have to be evaluated while re-designing the UX of a website or mobile app. This metric can be any feature about the users. Maybe it is about the number of hours a certain user spends commuting. Or the extent of how much the given user drains his phone’s battery. This will signal to the number of hours he/she spends on the phone. 

Data like this, and gazillion other data points have to be analyzed. For which, we got to be really grateful for the data team!

Now that the data is gathered for various levels of interaction by the data team, it is important for the UX team to identify tasks that need to be completed. To do this, a layered task diagram is required that ensures the segmentation of all the data that is stored. 

Re-Designing the UX

In this part, we are going to discuss the step by step process of re-designing the UX as per findings from the data analytics and related processes. To begin with, we will start with step 1. 

  • Step 1: Identify room for improvement.

    Now, all this exercise from data has a really good point to it. Which is to identify the problems that need solving. In this step, the team should be able to find and list all the pages or screens that are not performing up to the mark.
    This will also include pages that are not getting any traffic, and hence not generating any revenue. At the same time, this will include features that are not being exploited by users in a mobile app. Once you have identified these problems that need solving, you can now work to fix them. 
  • Step 2: Gather and Analyze Data

    Once you have found the problems, you can now start gathering data for each one of those. This will help you to not just understand the problem, but the root causes behind those respective problems.
  • Step 3: Construct User-Personas from the Data. 

    For any user-centered design, it is important to have user personas that align with the goals of the product. And what better thing than to create them by using data gathered from the very same product.

    Until now, user personas were created by the imagination of product teams. But now, that is not the case anymore.

    While creating user personas from data, it is important to make a list of open-ended questions and then work your way to crafting a good user-persona out of it.
  • Step 4: Constructing a Hypothesis

    Having created a user-persona and identified the problems that need solving, it is now important to construct a hypothesis for re-designing the UX. It will also serve as a handy tool for monitoring the direction and progress of the whole activity. 
  • Step 5: Implementation and Usability Testing after the re-design

    The ground is set. It’s time to steam in now. Once the redesign is completed, it is vital to conduct comprehensive usability testing and engage in an iterative process. This will help you to avoid things from seeping inside the cracks. 
  • Heuristic Evaluation with Data (Qualitative & Quantitative)

    This is the last check for the successful re-design of your UX. In this method, usability testing is conducted to identify the glitches or shortcomings in a given version of the product. Following this, an iterative and incremental process is followed to get rid of any potential issues with the UX.

    Recognized usability principles are followed as the benchmark for this evaluation. It is conducted in mainly two segments, named as qualitative and quantitative.

    In the beginning, qualitative data research must be performed in order to understand user behavior and find cues into why and how a user decides to engage in a given way with your product.

    Having done that, and implemented the findings, you can now move on to the last part. Also called quantitative data research, it is employed when a prototype is ready for testing. It is mainly done to figure how a certain user-persona will engage with the new changes in your UX design. 

Re-designing the UX for your product was never a cakewalk. And even more sophisticated when you are using data to validate and prove your hypothesis. But one thing’s for sure, you can trust the process more than ever. So, get started on your journey to leverage data and improve your UX!

James Grills

James Grills is a technical writer with a passion for writing on emerging technologies in the areas of mobile application development and IoT technology. He is a marketing advisor - currently associated with Cumulations Technologies, a leading Mobile App development company in Bangalore.