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Heart Framework: User-Centric Metrics To Measure User Experience
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Heart Framework: User-Centric Metrics To Measure User Experience

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The Heart Framework was developed by Google, and it helps us track how successful the user experience is by setting measurable, actionable metrics.

When it comes to managing a company or a project, metrics and indicators are indispensable to know if you are on the right track to achieving your goals. The heart framework is excellent for ensuring customer satisfaction or attracting new users.

The Heart framework is typically used to measure larger-scale projects, but it works for any size of project or team.

This article will explain the Heart Framework and how you can use this approach to improve the user experience and overall business results!

What is the Heart Framework?

The Heart Framework is based on a structure with several metrics that help evaluate and improve the user experience.

This methodology was created by Google's research team through their expertise in creating and tracking metrics for their products.

The team realized that there was a pattern in the metrics used; and understood that generalizing and creating a framework would help make their principles more memorable across teams.

In this sense, Kerry Rodden – Lead UX Researcher at the time – proposed a few categories that could help narrow the focus of the analysis and metrics used to evaluate the products.

The first letter of each category created by Rodden is part of the acronym that names the framework: Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, and Task Success.

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning how difficult it can be to measure user experience on a big scale. So, the great challenge that Heart Framework helps to overcome is precisely managing and analyzing metrics on a larger scale.

This doesn't mean that the framework doesn't work in smaller companies, but it certainly makes a difference in big companies (like Google) with highly scalable products.

Reading tip: Information Architecture: How to Organize UI Content

Heart Framework categories

The Heart Framework's 5 categories direct the types of metrics that will be defined and evaluated. Which are:

  • Happiness;
  • Engagement;
  • Adoption;
  • Retention;
  • Task Success.

Happiness

This category is related to the personal feelings of users, like:

  • satisfaction;
  • aesthetics;
  • the likelihood of referring the product to someone else;
  • ease of use.

However, as with most Heart Framework categories, be cautious when analyzing Happiness. It is not appropriate to analyze this category in isolation or to make decisions based on it alone.

Also, the Happiness factor is very much affected by time. A new feature may cause happiness and satisfaction for the users in the short term, but this may not convert into a better experience for them in the long term.

Therefore, it is essential to perform analysis carefully to avoid making hasty decisions.

Engagement

Engagement is related to the level of willing involvement users have with the product.

This category is usually linked to behavioral metrics such as frequency, time of use, number of daily uses, etc.

In particular, this category can come across as weak depending on the product type and the context in which it is used. People will use enterprise software daily, whether the experience is good or bad because it is part of the job.

In that case, the engagement rate will be high, but it will be skewed.

Furthermore, it is essential to understand that the level of engagement will depend a lot on the type of product. You cannot expect the frequency of use of a weather forecast app to be the same as that of a game, for example.

Adoption

Adoption is related to the number of new users a product gets within a certain period of time.

Here it is imperative to define when a person becomes a new user. Is it simply by visiting your site? Or when they sign up for a newsletter?

Furthermore, Adoption is also related to other areas besides UX, such as marketing and sales.

It is essential to be aware of this because a high level of Adoption will not necessarily be tied to a good experience but rather to a significant investment in advertising and ads.

Therefore, Adoption will be closely related to the next category.

Retention

Retention is about keeping people using a product for a certain period of time, like a month, a quarter, or a whole year.

Adoption and Retention are two essential categories of the Heart Framework that will help measure the success of new features or even a new product launch.

If the evolution of Adoption and Retention is not happening at the expected speed, something is probably hindering the user experience.

Generally speaking, when these two rates stabilize, it can mean that the product has entered a plateau and that in order to continue growing, the UX team should consider changes to make.

Task Success

The last category is Task Success. This category is related to more traditional UX design metrics, such as efficiency, effectiveness, and error rate.

In other words, Task Success contemplates metrics that can only be better evaluated in Usability Tests.

Reading tip: Tree Testing: How Easily Can Users Find The Information They Need?

How do the Heart Framework works?

Besides specifying the categories that will determine which metrics will be analyzed, the Heart Framework works with other concepts too.

You can define several metrics to measure the user experience, but it will only be worthwhile if there is a clear definition of why you need these indicators.

So, for each category described in the framework, there must be a definition of Goals, Signals, and Metrics.

Establishing objectives

Objectives are the bases and reasons for evaluating specific metrics within each category.

For example: is it more important to attract new users or to increase engagement with existing users? What is the expected outcome of a redesign or a new feature?

Setting goals ensures everyone on the team is on the same page and has a shared understanding of the priorities.

Each Heart Framework category may have several objectives attached to it. But it is important not to lose control over this. Ideally, try to set about 3 goals for each category.

Also, remember that an objective is specific to a resource or product. Different products and resources may require different goals.

Examples of goals for each Heart Framework category:

  • Happiness: users should be able to solve their problems (with the app, website, or software) easily and quickly while having fun;
  • Engagement: people must access the product every day for 1 hour;
  • Adoption: increase in X% the number of people using the product after launching a new feature;
  • Retention: reduce by X% the number of people who stop using the product;
  • Task Success: users should be able to find the necessary resources and finish their tasks in an average time of 2 minutes.

Defining the signals

In the Heart Framework, Signs are the actions and/or behaviors of users who contribute to goals being achieved.

So, in general, the Signs indicate that the objectives will be accomplished.

To define the Signals, choose those that are sensitive and specific to each category. Also, make sure that the Signs manifest themselves only when there is an improvement or decrease in the users' experience.

Signs that can vary for different reasons can jeopardize the Heart Framework analysis.

Signal examples for each Heart Framework category:

These examples are based on and related to the goal examples seen above.

  • Happiness: users provide positive feedback and recommend the product to others;
  • Engagement: increase in the average time users spend per session;
  • Adoption: more people downloading the product in the app stores and higher rates of access to a new feature;
  • Retention: fewer users unsubscribing or leaving the app and increased time spent in the application;
  • Task Success: more users reach the end of the journey and pageviews reduction on error screens.

Choosing metrics

The Signals will direct us to choose the most relevant metrics to measure and track the objectives of each Heart Framework category.

As one of the reasons for creating the Heart Framework was precise to be able to track UX Design metrics on a larger scale, it is essential that the metrics can be analyzed in a Dashboard format.

Also, choose metrics that show results in percentages, proportions, or averages. This is because absolute numbers can confuse the analysis.

Reading tip: Nielsen’s Heuristics: 10 Usability Principles To Improve UI Design

Examples of Metrics for each Heart Framework category:

  • Happiness: average rate users rate the app, Net Promoter Score® (NPS);
  • Engagement: average duration of sessions, open rates, conversion rates, page per session, NPS, customer satisfaction, ticket volume, social media, customer lifetime value;
  • Adoption: download rate, sign-up rate, feature adoption rate, upsell rate;
  • Retention: churn rate, subscription renewal rate;
  • Task Success: success rate per task, the average time to perform a task, and error rate per user.

When all the definitions have been established, the final format of the Heart Framework should look something like this:

One last point to remember is that when evaluating a product experience, you don't need to use all the categories in the Heart Framework. Use the ones that make the most sense for improving business results or are the priority of the moment.

The categories are just a guide to what is important to analyze, but only you and the rest of the UX team will know which analyses make the most sense for the product in question.

Why use the Heart Framework?

The Heart Framework is a relatively simple tool, but it brings powerful results to projects.

Some of the most important benefits of this model are:

1) Improve UX Design management

The Heart Framework analyzes the user experience of a given product from several angles and lenses, each of them determined by a category, as seen above.

Because of this, the UX team can identify trends and behavior patterns whenever they implement a UI change or any other aspect that impacts the experience.

With this, the team can have deeper insights into the product and the people who use it, their behaviors, and their needs. All this improves UX management and business intelligence.

Of course, a methodology alone cannot transform an entire area, but the Heart Framework is an exciting tool to improve the efficiency and success of design teams.

2) Prioritize actions and keep a strategic focus

Another great benefit of the Heart Framework is that it allows a more strategic vision of actions and thus facilitates the prioritization of activities.

If a defined metric is not meeting the category's goal, the team's efforts – or part of it – can be focused on solving this issue.

In a dynamic corporate environment, teams are expected to get overwhelmed with activities without task prioritization.

This was one of the reasons Kerry Rodden created the framework at Google, to be able to organize and prioritize the actions that would most benefit the user experience.

3) Supporting business decisions

As the UX team applies this framework and analyzes metrics, they will be able to gather insights into which product features are more profitable.

This way, the heart model will help support decisions about which categories should have more investment and what is the expected return on that investment.

At the end of the day, the company has to grow and be profitable, and it is crucial to understand how improving the user experience can help achieve this.

Reading tip: KPIs in UX Design: Why Do We Need Them?

4) The Heart Framework to elevate UX Designers in their career

Another benefit of the Heart Framework is related to professional growth for UX Designers.

Using metrics – and numbers, in general – build good arguments to demonstrate the performance of professionals, and this applies to UX Design as well.

With the Heart Framework, you can measure the impact of your work and demonstrate your value and how you are impacting the company's business and results.

Holding in hand the numbers that translate the results of UX Design work help stakeholders, directors, and other people in the company understand the importance and impact of UX on businesses.

Therefore, use the Heart Framework to understand and measure the product's success and demonstrate the value of your work as a designer.

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