User experience (UX) might seem like an intangible concept that is hard to measure. While all internet-based businesses make an enormous effort to improve how their users experience the product, it is not always easy to define what improvement is. This is where Google’s HEART Framework steps in and provides UX designers with a guide.
Google’s Heart Framework, although device-agnostic, can and should be adapted for mobile and app user experience. Before we jump into what this HEART methodology is and how you can utilize it in the mobile ecosystem, let us begin with answering a question: Why do you need to take good care of the user experience that your app offers?
First, let’s have a look at some statistics related to user experience:
These numbers should more than sufficient to understand the importance of user experience of any digital outlet an organization owns – web, mobile, social media, etc. In the modern-day technological arena, designers and product managers invest a lot of time and effort in the overall app user experience.
With the ever-increasing competition in the mobile app industry, designers have to stay on top of their game by making efficient use of various metrics such as load time, app crashes, user feedback, etc., to have thorough knowledge about each UX element at any given time. For this, they need a vast series of user-centered metrics to measure UX on a larger scale. And this is where Google’s HEART framework comes into the picture.
Designed by Kerry Rodden, Xin Fu, and Hilary Hutchinson of Google’s research team, the basic idea of this framework is quite simple – to develop a series of user-centered metrics that allow UX designers to focus on specific elements of the UX they want to work on and improve on a larger scale.
It is imperative to understand that measuring UX metrics and user behaviors at a small scale is easy. Small business setups and mobile apps can even have real-time chat with their end users and gather valuable feedback. In this way, they can observe trends and develop strategies accordingly.
However, when we talk about covering a larger segment of users from different demographics, locations, app behavior patterns, preferences, etc., then it surely becomes a big challenge for organizations to strategize the whole UX processes effectively.
The HEART metrics framework is specifically designed to measure the quality of user experience and assist UX teams to gauge the impact of UX changes.
HEART UX framework by Google stands for the following five metrics:
5) Task Success
As the name suggests, happiness covers a user’s overall satisfaction from a specific UX-related action. For instance, the latest app update might include a new app theme that a regular user might not be used to. As a UX designer, you need to track users’ responses to this change since happiness is the first of HEART metrics.
However, it is important to note that the initial reaction or drop in happiness levels due to a change does not always mean a negative output in the longer run. This is just one of the factors that a product manager or UX designer will analyze through measurement tools such as customer ratings, reviews, etc.
Engagement is the part of the HEART metrics framework that tells how much a user interacts with a specific digital platform over a certain time span. It is possible to measure user engagement through various metrics such as session length, the number of daily/weekly/monthly active users, session intervals.
While working on engagement metrics, you need to take into account only the ones that monitor the users’ interactions with a mobile app or any other digital outlet out of their own will. For example, engagement among HEART metrics might not be very suitable for corporate and enterprise digital platforms. If employees are supposed to carry out some tasks through an app, it does not matter whether they like the app or not. The job still needs to be done anyway.
Here is another point that you need to keep in mind: It is never a good idea to compare apples with oranges. The ideal engagement rate of a digital platform might vary from vertical to vertical. Whereas a digital calendar is inherently for daily use, a delivery app might be used less often. Hence, you must avoid comparing the user engagement metrics of products that are not similar in nature.
Adoption among Google HEART metrics shows the platform’s ability to attract new users over a specific time period. For example, if it is a mobile app, a product manager can assess the number of new users who have downloaded, installed, and signed up for the app.
You might wonder whether it is more related to sales and marketing activities instead of user experience. This would be a valid approach but we need to see it more comprehensively. Adoption metrics also measure how successfully a digital product can onboard new users. In other words, UX designers try to make the first steps into a product as user-centric as possible. Also, they do their best to help people use new or updated features. With HEART metrics, Google provides a useful guide to ensure smoothness in these processes.
Every organization intends to retain its existing customers or users. New user acquisition becomes pointless if you fail to keep these people using the product. Thus, retention is a vital part of all the metrics that Google provides with this framework.
Retention metrics cover the different time periods and comparisons that could range from a week or month to a quarter or year. When the designers are well-equipped with information and statistics that showcase the declining numbers, they will have more insight helping them develop more effective UX strategies.
According to the Google HEART framework template, when a new version of an app is rolled out, both the adoption and retention metrics work in cohesion to represent the UX performance and acceptance in a broader aspect.
The final metric of this framework is task success, which is related to the individual performance of various sections in a given workflow or the percentage of completion of specific sections. If we take the mobile app example again, this could be the time a user spends on the app registration section or the number of users who successfully placed an order using the app.
These sets of successes and failures can give detailed insights to app designers and product managers about the processes that they need to revisit and redo.
Now that we know what the Google HEART framework is all about, let us have a look at how it can be implemented to improve mobile user experience and eventually, increase user engagement.
Although HEART is not originally a Google framework for mobile apps, it is quite adaptable for any digital product. Depending on the app vertical and the audience, you can form a strategy in various ways. But at the basic level, you can implement the general framework in your mobile UX design by following these steps:
HEART is a catchy acronym to mention the most important aspects of providing a great user experience. Yet, this is just the beginning. As the next step, you need to decide what to do with these concepts of happiness, engagement, adoption, retention, and task success. One way of using those in an effective way is to design a schema including your goals, signals, and metrics for each category. What is the concrete aim that you want to achieve in terms of engagement? How will you measure user satisfaction? What will be your key performance indicators (KPIs) in terms of product adoption?
Above, you can see a Google HEART framework example by Moonshot. While elaborating on different aspects of each category, you can use such a template or prepare your own for your product.
The first step is to define realistic goals and ensure all team members are on the same page. It is possible that a mobile app could have very different goals as compared to let’s say, a TV advertisement for the same product. Similarly, a mobile app update could have different goals than the goals of the overall app.
As Kerry Rodden mentions, “At YouTube, one of the most important goals is user engagement – we want users to enjoy the videos they watch and keep discovering more videos and channels they want to watch.”
This quote emphasizes the fact that having clear, relevant, and precise goals is important for the success of this framework. Ideally, 3 goals are recommended in the goals section.
The next step is to connect your goals with signals, in other words, to define specific situations that will mean success for these goals. This part will give you a real-time picture of all the sets of actions that are being performed in your app. User behaviors or attitudes would eventually determine the success or failure of the whole system.
Let’s continue with an example. Imagine a user placing an order using an app, performing all the next steps, and reaching the checkout page. If they go back and need to redo something, instead of clicking ‘Place Your Order,’ this situation needs to give you a signal. Users might be missing something out on that step the first time.
Another important thing to note here is that the signals should be easy to track. If the nature of your business is such that it does not automatically log user’s actions or app KPIs, it could turn out to be a mess. Secondly, it is advised to only choose those signals that are connected to your UX-related changes.
The final step is to measure the information you amassed in your signals section through quantifiable data that you can monitor in your dashboard. Some of the trackable metrics could be user feedback, user star rating, registration rate, sign-up rate, etc.
Again, it is important to only measure those metrics that are relevant to the whole UX process or the app’s user experience in totality.
So what are the main advantages of using such a framework by Google for UX improvements? Let’s have a look:
For an organization that is not satisfied with its app results or whichever digital platform they are using, the HEART framework by Google is great. This UX model works on a more holistic approach and lets the designers identify, connect, and measure the problematic areas over a specific time period.