Design often feels more like an art than a science. For many agencies, creative decisions are made based on preference, instead of substantiating judgements beyond the designer’s gut feeling.
As someone who has crafted their art for years, you may be able to make many decisions quickly and effectively. But even experts should be aware of the false-consensus effect, which is the tendency to assume that others share your beliefs and behaviors within a given context.
When it comes to design, the false-consensus effect translates to the assumption that ‘others will like it because I do,’ and it’s a common mistake.
That’s because failing to collect real-world feedback results in an inability to measure success. And when you don’t know if a design element isn’t resonating with your clients and their audience, let alone why it’s not working, then you can’t fix the problem. That can be the difference between scoring new clients and watching them go to your competition.
This bares the question: how can agencies measure their creative decisions to ensure their designs resonate with their intended audience?
Bake data into your strategic decisions
Quantifying design starts with a mindset shift to work with data.
Data-driven design recognizes the importance of sourcing information from the users themselves to ground decision making with facts instead of feelings. While some designers may experience initial difficulties using data to drive their decision-making, ultimately this is the best way for your agency to validate their instinctive choices.
The key to helping designers make this transition is to understand that data isn’t just in numbers: a data-driven process can draw on both the quantities and the qualities foundational to your design strategy.
In action, this looks like growing your understanding of your clients by conducting various tests, scheduling frequent interviews to understand their pain points and crafting personas. Have a data collection practice in place to set a customer-centric tone for the rest of your agency.
Collect the right data
You’ve done your due diligence in terms of studying your prospective clients. You’ve spoken to them directly to gauge their expectations, understand their core values and crafted personas that clearly demonstrate their pain points and what makes them tick.
But how do you know if your designs truly resonate with your clients and their audience? The answer: test them. It’s not enough to confirm with your target audience that they like your creative decisions, you need to analyze their behaviors when they encounter them. That’s because people’s conscious responses sometimes differ from their actions due to unawareness or cognitive dissonance.
Here are a few important design considerations to test with data:
Color: Nearly 4 in 10 people believe that color is the most important visual aspect of a website’s design, according to survey data from Top Design Firms. To that effect, analytics platform HueData helps designers validate color decisions by referencing a wealth of data on the prevalence and impact of color decisions across fashion, automobiles, beauty products, paint, interior design, logos, sports and pharma. Use it to determine how well color choices resonate with a given audience.
Copy: A lot goes into your messaging: the weight and font selection, tone of voice and the actual content of the message. To gauge how well your copy resonates with prospective clients, use services like Wynter to run messaging tests, preference tests and buyer intelligence surveys. Alternatively, conduct a semantic differential survey to determine how your audience rates your copy across various categories.
Information architecture: This is the structure that governs your layout, information hierarchy and navigability. We have a guide here for strengthening a website’s architecture to enhance the client experience.
Buttons: Similar to your copy, you should also A/B test buttons to see how they’re performing. Consider the size, shape, placement and copy. Here’s why conducting A/B tests is important, as well as how to do it on Wix.
Forms: Used for newsletter and membership signups, enrolling in a subscription or purchasing a product, forms are an excellent way to transparently collect data on your users. With Wix, once you've published a form on a site or shared the URL of a standalone form, all the form submission data appears in your Forms dashboard. View separate submission tables depending on the form you want to analyze.
Content: Maze is a popular tool to validate how viewers interpret content before you release your words into the world. Marpipe is another platform that uses multivariate testing to measure the performance of every possible combination of creative variables in your ads: images, headlines, colors and calls to action.
Process over tools
Start collecting data to better understand how your target audience responds to design decisions. Once you have a large enough sample size (which is generally a minimum of 5 clients, but the more the merrier), visualize your data to communicate it effectively across your agency. Finally, set time to synthesize what the data is telling you into a cohesive story, then embed what matters to users directly into your decision making.