The HEART of Your Users' Experience

Heart MetricsWhen deploying a web application on a large scale, it is important to gauge the level of user experience that users get when using the system.

For a long time, PULSE has been used to measure the quality of the user experience and provide data. However, it has had some shortcomings and this led to the introduction of HEART. This is an additional framework for user experience metrics which stands for happiness, engagement, and retention and task success. These metrics can track progress by UX teams towards certain goals. Happiness involves satisfaction of the user while task success is made up of both effectiveness of the system and its efficiency. The other three categories have been brought about by the availability of data about user behavior on a large scale. This framework is aimed at making the principles of user experience design easier to follow. It is important to keep in mind that not all the categories have to be used at the same time and one can always decide to exclude a category or two. This depends on the context in which the user experience metrics are being measured. The categories reviewed in more detail are:

1. Happiness
These are the attitude based metrics involving aspects such as the perceived ease of use of the system, the visual appeal, the likelihood to recommend and the overall satisfaction when using the system. These can be tracked easily by employing the use of a properly designed survey that tracks this metric over time showing progress as changes are being made to the system. The data from this metric is very important when deciding on new designs and determining the success level of design changes made.

2. Engagement
This refers to how involved the user is with a product. In terms of metrics, this refers to how frequently the user gets to interact with the system. This can be, for instance, the number of weekly visits, or even the amount of new content generated by the user. This is usually reported as a per user average. This metric is good for predicting user retention in the long term.

3. Adoption and Retention
This is a very important metric for distinguishing new users from existing ones. Adoption metrics are used to identify the number of new users over a given period of time. On the other hand, retention metrics are used to track down how many new users are still using the product after some time. Usage of a product may vary, depending on the factors that the UX team decides upon. In some cases, just visiting a website may count as usage while in other cases, there has to be something done in order to count as usage. The duration over which retention is measured may vary depending on the relative age of the product and stability.

4. Task Success
This combines several traditional metrics of user experience such as effectiveness, efficiency and the rate of errors. On a large scale, this can be done using a remote usability or a benchmark study. In the benchmark study, each user is assigned a specific task to carry out. Using server side log data can be quite a task, as one will not be able to know exactly what task the user was carrying out. If there is a defined sequence to carrying out a task however, one can easily measure which of the steps were followed by the user hence giving a measure of effectiveness and error rate. This is a very important metric when deciding on new features and major changes to a system.

At the end of the day, HEART metrics are meant to act as a pulse of your overall user experience. If you haven't considered utilizing such a framework, perhaps now is the time to do so.