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Maximizing Design Firm Relationships Using Appropriate Success Metrics

Over the past few weeks I’ve discussed ways to maximize design firm relationshipsby collaborating with your designer during the budgeting process and planning together for stakeholder input. In this third and final installment, we’ll look at how to determine and measure appropriate metrics for success on a website redesign project.

Project Success vs. Product Success

First, some context around the term “success.” If you’re a project manager, your mind probably goes to schedule (Did we complete the project on time?), budget (Did we stay within our means?), and scope (Did we accomplish everything we set out to?).  If the answer to all of these questions is Yes, then the site is a success, right?

Not necessarily. Doing all of these things might mean that the project was executed successfully, but it doesn’t tell you anything about the site itself (the product). Are you getting more donations? Are more people aware of your organization and its mission? Is valuable content that had been hidden 4 layers deep in your site now having an impact on your audience? The outcomes measured in the weeks and months following launch are critical to determining whether you’ve moved the needle in the right direction, or need to re-think some of your communications strategy.

Hard Numbers vs. Soft Metrics

People tend to gravitate toward tangible numbers that make it easy to compare “before” and “after.” On a content-driven site, the typical metrics are things like number of visitors, page views, and average visit time. These types of numbers are great to validate improvements in usability or how your content is organized. If you’re trying to raise awareness for your organization or a particular cause, use social measurement tools to measure the buzz.

Other hard numbers to consider:

  • Membership or program participation
  • The average number and value of online donations
  • Frequency of volunteer applications and demographics of those who volunteer

In addition to those quantitative metrics, there are qualitative aspects to consider.  Website redesigns are often a component of a strategic re-branding. Aside from increasing the number of people your organization engages online, what is their impression of your organization and the issues you care about?

Unfortunately there’s no Google Analytics report that will tell you whether you’ve raised someone’s awareness or altered his or her perspective on an issue. You can, however, get a very good idea by conducting surveys, monitoring social networks, and encouraging everyone in your organization to notice and record feedback from the people they interact with.

Some of these metrics are easier to obtain than others, and some of them will be more valuable to your organization than others. In the earliest stages of design, your design firm is helping you to determine and prioritize project goals. For each goal identified, the question must be asked, “How will we know we’ve met this goal?” Start with the top priorities and put resources toward measuring their success first.

Priority Project Goal Measurement of Success
1 Increase visibility of key research Analytics specific to 10 selected reports
2 Change perception of organization among 20-30 year olds from “traditional and old-fashioned” to “innovative and relevant” Increased positive mentions on major social media outlets; improved perception as revealed by randomized surveys on website (every 100th visitor)
3 Increased donations Increased percent of donations via site referral

Close the Loop

Once you’ve collected all of this great data that shows the various impacts of your project, don’t forget to do something with it! Too often, budgets are created by comparing what was spent the previous period and adjusting up or down based on external factors. Web site and social statistics, surveys, and event anecdotal outcomes are invaluable in guiding where the next round of funding is most needed or would have the greatest impact.

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