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How designers can win spends and influence people

How designers can win spends and influence people

George Bernard Shaw famously observed that, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.”  Had he ever moved from the crafting of prose to the design of product he might well have observed the same thing about designers and budget holders.  Theoretically on the same side and able to speak the same language, they have access to the same words but somehow never quite manage to fully communicate.

My decades of experience in digital design have brought me into contact with many design teams and just as many leadership teams.  And like England and America, these teams often find that they use common vocabulary but don’t speak the same language.

Design teams are unhappy that management don’t ‘get it’.

Management teams complain that designers use up all their budget on indulgent beautification.

And often both are right to greater or lesser extents.

When organisational culture is open, at least those teams can tease each other about their predicament.  Designers ask their managers if they would just prefer users to type directly into the command line?  Managers call designers ‘painters and decorators’ and ask them to be careful when they are ‘colouring in’.

This column doesn’t seek to apportion blame.  Rather it seeks to encourage designers to embrace the single most impactful change they can make.

Get better at talking about data.

Want to gain more credibility within your organisation? Start talking the language of data.

Want access to more of the product development budget?  Start talking the language of data.

Want a seat at the board table, or representation when the big decisions are being made?  Start talking the language of data.

You can’t get any of these things without it.

The reason is because properly mined and understood data is the glue which connects the designer’s interface to the Finance Director’s spreadsheet.

Data is simultaneously the beating heart of design performance and the building blocks of the business case for all design.

Let me share a few sample business cases for design?

The e–commerce website currently enjoys a conversion rate of 1.5% which generates revenue of £1m and margin of £150k per month.  Using design thinking, we can move conversion rate to 2%, generating revenue of £1.33m and margin of £200k.  The design project costs £75k.

The B2B website generates 10 leads per month for the professional services business, 2 of which are qualified out, and 50% of the remainder are converted, at an average value of £25,000.  Design strategy and research will double the number of leads each month and increase their quality.  The design project will cost £50,000 and the outcome is 20 leads per month with 2 qualified out.

The telecoms onboarding process generates 10,000 support emails and 20,000 support calls per month, at an overall cost of £4 per call and £2.5 per email.  Using contextual analysis, thorough desk research and UI design, the design team can reduce emails to 6,000 and calls to 8,000.  The design project costs £100,000.

Here’s my challenge to you – secure the budget for those design projects without referring to data.

You can’t, because it can’t be done.

If your design team isn’t driven by data, please start now.  Go after rich nuanced data which is closely integrated with organisation goals.  Become at least as fluent as your manager in talking about the numbers they care about.

Get your hands on the numbers which help you understand what it’s like on the front line: 

  • how users behave (page impressions, flows, funnels, goals, conversion)
  • outcomes users achieved (goal completion, bottleneck identification, bounce)
  • how users are being treated (page load time, average time on site)
  • commercial reality (cost of customer acquisition, cost of conversion, cost of visit, cost of click, cost of a lead, conversion rate, lifetime value of customer).

Close the gap.

Deal in the currency of data.

And see your own currency valuation soar.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth formed Fathom in 2011 and has been in the business of design performance for over two decades.

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