Data Matters


Data and design are two concepts often viewed as unrelated. Data is frequently coupled with the left side of the brain; numbers, logic, and reasoning. On the other hand, design is often associated with the right side of the brain; creativity, visual thinking, and abstract meaning. These two concepts are very often compartmentalized and seen as separate entities that must be headed and commanded by two different types of people entirely. Though there may be some limited truth to these ideas, user-centered design must rely on logic and reasoning just as much as creativity and visual thinking.

Today’s rapidly changing world is becoming increasingly data driven as new technology and tools have given us the ability to extract, aggregate, and analyze amounts of data larger than ever before. It is highly crucial that designers do not neglect data as a tool due to preconceived notions, and rather take advantage of emerging technologies to utilize this data to drive and enrich their design processes.

There are a multitude of ways in which data can be used to enhance a designer’s process. For one, data analytics can reveal critical information about users which cannot always be extracted via traditional research methods. Metrics regarding things such as site traffic, technical issues, and navigation can help designers identify issues and pain points that would be much more difficult to extract via surveys, interviews or even observational analyses.

Aside from providing insights about users that can’t be mined via traditional research methods, data can also be instrumental in investigating and confirming hypotheses derived from qualitative research. For example, if it is hypothesized that users are abandoning a form due to not feeling comfortable in providing specific bits of information, web analytics can be used to determine at exactly which field users are abandoning the form.

Lastly, data can be used not only for unearthing and confirming findings that enrich the research phase of the design process, but also to measure the success of newly implemented designs. Metrics regarding engagement, retention and task success can give a designer a clearer picture of just how effective their designs are and be used to promote adoption among stakeholders, or drive iterations to improve designs.

To conclude, data is increasingly becoming a driving force in today’s world, and as technology continues to improve, data mining and analysis is easier and more accessible than ever before. Rather than viewing data as an expertise honed only by a select group of innately analytical people, data must be regarded by designers as an instrumental tool which can enhance their processes substantially and contribute to the success of their designs.

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