Google has often been a pioneer in the industry, and nothing Google ever does is “small.”
That’s why when they needed a better way to measure UX on a large scale, they created a new system. One of their former UX researchers tackled the issue by creating a framework he called HEART.
What is this framework, how can your UX team use it, and what are the benefits that you can expect to gain?
Let’s delve into the answer to those questions and more.
What is Google HEART?
No, Google hasn’t broken into the healthcare industry.
Google HEART is a framework developed by Kerry Roden — that UX researcher we introduced earlier — to help solve Google’s need for a system to measure UX on a Google scale.
This methodology evaluates a website or application based on five user-centric metrics.
As you may have deduced, Kerry Roden wrote a very in-depth and evidence-based study on how his new method would streamline Google’s (and any other digital company’s) UX research.
In this study, Roden breaks down the five key metrics that he deemed the most important to track. They spell a nice little acronym that connects to our emotions — our HEART.
What Does the Acronym Stand For?
Cue the pom-poms because we’re about to give you a cheer.
Give me an H! Give me an E! Give me an A! Finish off with an RT! What does it spell? HEART! Why does it spell it? We’re going to tell you!
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s fix our ties and get back to business.
These letters represent more than just a fuzzy feeling. Each letter represents a specific part of the formula.
Let’s identify each letter’s significance:
In other words, how happy are your users with the design? Another term often used to measure this is user satisfaction.
A lot of developers add the NPS (Net Promoter Score) plugin to websites to ask users specific questions. This plugin provides a score based on their answers. This can give you an idea of how some users experience certain aspects of your site.
Of course, this is a very broad way to measure user satisfaction. It lacks some of the personal feelings behind the user’s answers.
A better way to measure this would be to invite users to provide feedback through BugHerd’s public feedback tool.
This tool makes it easy for your users to let you know what they like and dislike without filling out an entire survey. Some may even give you great ideas for improving your site.
The “E,” as in engagement, is measured by user participation. Participation in this context is defined as specific tasks or actions your visitors complete in reaction to the information your website presents.
The participation options could differ for each website. A few examples would be how many likes, comments, uploads, and downloads your site generates.
However, there are some staple engagement metrics that every website should be measuring, and most do through Google Analytics.
- Page views
- Session duration
- Bounce rate
- Traffic sources
- Pages per session
- Number of new visitors
- Number of repeat visitors
- Conversion rate
HubSpot explains these metrics and more in their article on engagement tracking.
Many of these metrics are more specifically homed in on through the rest of the HEART acronym.
Often, users adopt or accept what you have to offer.
To see where you stand, you will need to measure new users, purchases, and subscribers. If your website is attractive, engaging, and delivers something the user wants, it makes sense that they would visit your site.
Those who visit will be more likely to purchase from you when you make your offer easy to find and easy to purchase. They’ll also want to be updated on new offers or information through your email subscription.
This metric is specifically linked to the growth of your site. You’ll know if your site is “working” for your users. In other words, they find value in what you have to offer.
While adoption measures the new metrics on your site, retention measures how well you keep those new users happy.
Retention includes the average time spent on the website by new users, but it also compares the number of current users to past users.
Are your numbers growing? Are your users shifting?
Perhaps your target audience needs tweaking. These metrics identify this and other goals you can reach.
The “T” stands for task success. Can your users complete tasks without error?
Measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of your site is critical. Sites with broken links, buttons that don’t work, and even slow page speeds can be the undoing of a website.
You’ll lose visitors fast with a website with faulty functions. Some of these faults could be considered typos or missing info, but most will be bugs. Bug tracking is an important task that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Test cases are another way to ensure task completion is spot on. Can your visitors sign up for your product without errors? How about purchase from your website?
UAT will also come into play here. When implementing user acceptance testing, you’ll get firsthand information on whether your site is set up for your visitors to easily find what they are looking for.
How to Use the HEART Method
It’s crucial to know that you don’t have to use all five metrics of the HEART method to create the best version of a website. Only use the ones that are particularly helpful for each project.
It should also be stressed that you can use the HEART framework to verify the UX of an entire website, or just one feature.
Once you’ve chosen your metrics, attach those metrics to a goal to ensure coherence between the numbers and the end results.
The HEART framework is especially useful when combined with the process of goals-signals-metrics.
This process attaches a goal to the metric and identifies which signal or signals would show progress toward reaching that goal.
It also ensures that each metric’s objective or goal is defined. The metrics can then show the rate of improvement or quantifiable data.
Applicable metrics may look different for a specific feature of the website than the website as a whole. Some teams find determining which metrics apply best to their site to be a challenge.
Gecis.co explains in his article the importance of measuring a process in order to know if it’s working, or what needs improvement. That’s why he backs the Google HEART framework with the Goals-Signals-Metrics process.
Google HEART measures success through the quality of user experience, and the Goals-Signals-Metrics process measures how well you are meeting the goals of the project.
Templates are always helpful to organize your workflow and track metrics. BugHerd’s kanban style workflow organization is a great way to incorporate each of the HEART metrics into your website.
Benefits of Google Heart for UX
When you implement the HEART framework, you deal with more defined data, eliminating the unimportant. This allows you to focus on the criteria that make the most significant impact, in turn directing your energy to improve these criteria.
The HEART framework also cuts down on designers becoming overwhelmed by too much data to track and interpret. HEART’s methodology routes all efforts and investments to the five chosen goals.
This method doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your process, only honing it. There’s no need for new training programs for your team, so UX designers can implement this method immediately.
HEART also provides insight into which metric leads to an increase in revenue. This means that your UX team can begin to predict a website’s ROI based on how well one metric is doing over another.
Better yet, when following this method along with the goals-signals-metrics process, you will have a real-time visual dashboard representing the metrics and their resulting revenue.
When you can prove that your UX design is providing value supported by measurable data, you improve client satisfaction.
The HEART framework is all based on user satisfaction. The UX team is encouraged to empathize with the challenges and problems faced by the user and provide solutions to these through their design.
By studying the retention and bounce rate, UX teams validate not only the drop-off rate but also the “why” behind this lack of interest.
Knowing how other companies are implementing this process to their own UX may be helpful. One company, FreeAgent, shares how they applied the HEART method to their UX process to ensure they meet or exceed their standards and goals for users.
HEART vs. PULSE
While the HEART method may be new for most UX teams, some may have experience with another extensive methodology: PULSE metrics.
How do these frameworks compare?
Let’s take a look, starting with HEART first.
HEART focuses on broader, user-centric metrics. UX team members must have in-depth knowledge of the project to find the right metrics to use.
Once they have found the right metrics, they need to pay attention to the balance of these metrics.
For example, if they notice their Happiness metrics decrease when the Adoption metrics increase, they need to find a way to counteract this event.
PULSE looks at the low-level, direct metrics.
PULSE, like HEART, is also an acronym.
It stands for:
- Page views
- Seven-day active users
Although these metrics are easier to identify and track, they leave a lot to the assumptions of the UX team.
For example, when a user stays on a page for longer, is it due to enjoyment of the content, or is it because they aren’t given specific direction on where to go next?
This ambiguity isn’t conducive to progress.
While both methods can provide some insight into your site’s user experience, HEART seems to delve deeper into the emotional reactions of your users.
Let’s face it.
If PULSE was sufficient, why would Google waste time and money developing its own framework?
Easy answer: they wouldn’t.
Adopting Google’s HEART method could improve your UX processes and ultimately better your consumer relations. However, even the developer of this framework agrees that more research needs to be done.
In the conclusion of his study, he states:
“Because large-scale behavioral metrics are relatively new, we hope to see more CHI research on this topic — for example, to establish which metrics in each category give the most accurate reflection of user experience quality.”
Constant feedback and finding new ways to get user-centered metrics should always be a priority for web design.