Analytics vs Instincts In Design

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Analytics v Instinct

Right now, in the world of graphic design, there is an interesting battle taking place between instincts and analytics. Data is plentiful and shapes everything around us. It is constantly being collected with every split-second that someone stays on a website (or doesn’t) and is instrumental in decision-making but is it an end-all substitute for a designer’s gut feeling? It may feel like there’s a thin red line separating the two but in reality, they consistently step over that divide to aid each other.

Data will often tell you that a big, bright, and flashy call-to-action is the right way to go because it will lead the user’s eye. To a certain extent, that is correct. With that said, you want that call-to-action to look good, to match the overall style of your website and other marketing materials, and, most importantly, to keep the user engaged.

This is the point that Braden Kowitz, a Design Partner at Google Ventures, makes in a Google Ventures Library article titled “Should designers trust their instincts or the data.” In the piece, Kowitz described the process of designing the “Checkout” button for Google as one of his first projects for the company. He says that after each wave of design, the powers at be requested that the new button be “bolder, larger, more eye catching, and even ‘clicky’ (whatever that means.” All of those things would surely drive the user’s attention to the call-to-action but it definitely didn’t look good.

Kowitz was certainly getting frustrated by the process and this led to one of his colleague’s stepping in to give the board what they wanted. As Kowitz puts it in the article:

He designed the most attention-grabbing button he could possibly muster: flames shooting out the side, a massive chiseled 3-D bevel, an all-caps label (“FREE iPOD”) with a minuscule “Checkout for a chance to win.”

The finished example (which can be seen in Kowitz’ piece) is most definitely attention-grabbing in that it is literally a flaming wreck. However, what the bevelled button did do was move the conversation on to a new point, forcing them to start caring about a little more than what hard data had told them to.

The designer’s instincts are important for the overall quality of a piece be it a full website design or a small button in the bottom corner. Data helps us make decisions but it shouldn’t be the only decision-maker.

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