A seamless user experience is essential if you want your software to work effectively and fulfill its business objectives. However, building a user-friendly app or website is only possible with thorough UX research. The larger the organization, the more difficult it can be to collect the data.
To meet the needs of large-scale businesses, in 2010, Google UX research experts came up with a perfect way to measure the user experience. They created the HEART framework that specifically targets this kind of measurement. Let’s get familiar with this framework.
Google product teams developed the HEART framework to help companies choose and define appropriate metrics that reflect the goals of a product and the quality of that product’s user experience.
These user experience metrics have been actually built using other frameworks – for example, they are considered to be based on the key UX principles identified by Gould and Lewis more than 30 years ago. Metrics like NPS or regular usability tests are also nothing new.
The Google HEART framework is relatively easy to adopt, though. It’s a simple framework with a memorable name, especially useful for large enterprises that are trying to measure many disparate products.
HEART stands for happiness, engagement, adoption, retention, and task success.
This metric is equivalent to user satisfaction or user attitudes towards your product. The level of the happiness metric can be recorded even for huge projects through various user surveys such as net-promoter score, percentage of satisfied users, average satisfaction score,* etc. To collect the insights properly, you should conduct long-term observations, as that approach provides better data for decision-making.
*Net-promoter score is a measurement of customer loyalty and satisfaction. It asks users how likely they would be to recommend the product to others on a scale of 0-10.
The engagement metric measures how much a user interacts with a product. However, to obtain reliable information, usage patterns (a user’s behavioral patterns on a website or application) should be taken into account. Engagement can be measured as the regularity of use, the intensity of use, or the level of interaction over a certain period. Examples might include the number of visits per user per day or, in social media applications, the number of photos uploaded per user per day.
Adoption is the number of new users over a certain time. It shows how successfully you attract new business. Adoption might be measured as the number of accounts created in the last week or the percentage of users who use certain features. Predictably, not all users will like and use an app, but adoption measuring is a great way to get a solid grasp of what can be improved for users to be accepted.
Retention means keeping your existing users for a certain amount of time. That amount of time may be a week, a month, or a year – it depends on the product. A simple example of retention might be the number of active users from a certain period who are still present at some later time. It can also be churn (failure to retain). If your team launches a new feature, retention shows the level of success for this upgrade from the user’s point of view.
Task success is connected with areas of the software that are task-focused (such as search or an upload flow). Examples of this metric might be efficiency, effectiveness, and error rate.
You can apply the framework to a specific feature or an entire project to define metrics that measure its user experience. Collecting data based on these metrics enables you to precisely measure the quality of your UX, and the metrics can be used to track progress towards the project goals. By focusing on the key aspects, you can take informed decisions on the product development process.
If you're interested in UX metrics, check out our article about data-driven design.
The Google HEART framework focuses on three main areas: goals, signals, and metrics. These are also the steps you should follow to implement the HEART framework in your organization. Let’s go through all three steps and explain what’s required.
- Set the goals. HEART goals describe what you want to achieve with your users from a UX perspective. During this step, the UX research team aligns targets and sets a clear direction for each element of the framework. The goals will be different each time. However, make sure you don’t set more than three goals – juggling with more will provide too many metrics to analyze meaningfully.
- Define the signals. User activities that are related to your goals. This phase enables you to monitor whether you are on the right track. You map the broad objectives to user actions and determine what would show that your goal has been met or failed.
- Choose the right metrics that can be measured in real-time. Metrics should be numerical and trackable and specify the signal to be measured. In addition, it is recommended to keep the list of your metrics short and manageable.
When you assign scores in each of the five areas of the HEART framework, you can compare different metrics and decide which features have the greatest chance of delivering value and success for both the customer and your business. Thus, they help you make better decisions about products in the future.
Let’s imagine you are building a new application for two-factor authentication. It will be a free app to promote your brand as a company that promotes security solutions.
- Your happiness metrics would be for users to find your applications intuitive, easy to use, and secure. Signals: good reviews in AppStore, good survey responses. Metric: NPS.
- Your engagement metrics would be: users like your app and are engaged with the features. Signal: existing users who keep using the app. Metric: how many times a user uses the app weekly or monthly.
- Your adoption metrics would be: the number of new users signing up for your app. Signal: downloading and launching the application. Metrics: registration rates, download rates.
- Your retention metrics would be: to ensure that users return regularly. Signal: customers opening your app. Metric: churn rate.
- Your task success metrics would be: users can proceed with two-factor authentication within a few seconds. Signals: successful completion of logging in using the app. Metrics: the number of successful loggings, the app crash rate.
The HEART framework is one of the most popular frameworks for product management. And it’s hard to disagree with the numerous benefits that it can bring to your organization, no matter the size of your business. Let’s discuss these benefits:
- The HEART framework is helpful when you need to identify the most important usage patterns for your product (if users are adopting your product properly or what causes customer churn). This leads to massive product improvements over time.
- It helps in spotting valuable trends and insights. You can track the same user experience from multiple angles (five metrics). It is useful to collect information about what improves particular metrics and what weakens others.
- The framework allows your team to identify the elements that are strategically important for your product. It helps you identify ways to improve the metrics. Also, it helps you strategize on where to put more focus.
- It helps you track and measure user behavior while using your product (how much time users spend with your app, what buttons they click, etc.) in a more organized, user-oriented, and systematic way.
- The HEART framework leads to an increase in revenue. The valuable insights you generate show you what metrics are to bring the highest return on investment. If there are certain features that facilitate users spending more money, it makes sense for you to make them seamless, which will lead to generating more revenue.
If you're still not convinced, check out our article about why your company should invest in UX and UI design services.
Every methodology and framework has both pros and cons. The HEART framework, despite its advantages, can also be challenging. First, the different goals, signals, and metrics of each new feature may be confusing for product teams. As the categories overlap, you may find yourself doing some unnecessary work. Furthermore, in some cases, the framework doesn’t necessarily measure the interplay between all five categories.
So, is the HEART framework worth using? It’s a very useful framework and, at the same time, easy to understand and implement. Both SMEs and large-scale businesses have experimented with it and most have been satisfied with the results. The framework helps organizations collect meaningful data and better understand the trends that can be make or break for their software products. The framework can be used across teams, which makes it both comprehensive and versatile.
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