September 20, 2017
Some things occur in a room that create an atmosphere so thick, you could cut through it with a knife. When you place designers and data marketers in a room, such things happen. Finding a balance is crucial when doing data based design.
Designer Douglas Bowman resigned his position at Google over its over-reliance on data. In his words:
Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such minuscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.
Being a designer and marketer, I see both arguments to this case. Users will interact with certain combinations of color and others simply won’t. If the majority of people do not understand or use your design, then you have a problem. Color can be an issue. Color theory is a real thing. And when crafting a creation, you have to know the audience it’s for and design according to that.
When I was at another marketing firm years ago, we ran tests on 2 kinds of lead form designs. One was with a green button, the other yellow. The green button was on a yellow background (if you’re a designer, I know, it screamed at you). The yellow button was on a green background. The green button designed form performed the best.
The problem that arose later was that ALL forms were designed this way, no matter the page they were on. It was a horrible decision since not all branding works with green or yellow. The A/B test was a good test, but only for the brand it was tested on. The big problem is not all brands that the company worked with had the same audience. Form performance was not a universal constant. You must find balance.
For the brand we did test, we saw an increase in leads completing the form for that page. When we applied the same design for all pages, lead completion steadily decreased. So even for the same website, from page to page not all forms performed the same with the combination of colors.
Data Driven design is not for design purist. It’s going to annoy them greatly and could result in someone resigning like at Google. But there is a difference between this type of design, and design that is for purely for visual appeal.
When starting, it is important to think about the goals of the project and the intended audience. As a UX designer, you are data focused, but the design is not ignored. If that were the case, all websites would have ugly conversion forms. The lesson is to keep balance and perspective as each design is different and requires a unique approach.
Netflix uses “data” to drive its marketing, but “data” doesn’t have anything to do with character development on their programming. Therefore, data driven design and design can co-exist.
Use Data Responsibly
When creating a brand, don’t become too rigid with your design team. Micromanaged imagery is actually a waste. This is because your perceptions do not necessarily indicate the opinions of others. A design is both objective and subjective. Still, everyone sees something different based on feeling. So attempting to not let your designs breathe (within the data parameters) will not achieve your goals and get to market. Thus as a UX Designer, you’re aware of which design needs to be subjective or objective.
Subjective design examples are anything marketing and branding related, hands down. There are fundamentals to explore when crafting these so that they can fall in the subjective camp. An objective design example is designing a User Interface that works, and users can navigate. Ignoring data for UI/UX design is designing by the designer’s feelings and not the consideration of the users it’s intended for.
Distinguish first what type of design you are dealing with, then approach accordingly. Not all materials have to be designed precisely, but within the confines of the defined branding. Leave room for your marketing team to work their magic and realize that not all opinions are without data driving them. It can sound like a Hatfield and McCoy situation, but striking the right balance between data and design is possible.