Often times, elements in a design are relatively easy to implement (such as changing the color of a button, or updating an error message).

However, there are other times when implementing a new design principle will involve a lot of coding and time (such as redoing the header of the website)

The time spent improving design costs money, but in order to know whether spending that money is worth it, there should be some method of determining the value (in dollars) of the improved design.

There are only two methods I can think of:

  1. Assume that all good designs are worth it, and spend the time doing it. If a design is taking too much time to implement, then the code was not well written, and needed refactoring.

  2. Guesstimate based on how useful you think the new design will be. You could even perform some A/B testing for more accurate results. (However, getting statistically relevant results from A/B testing may be expensive as well)

I personally think that #2 is the better option, but I'm looking for ways that companies determine the value of a design.

  • 2
    This is an extremely broad question and probably all answers will be opinion based. While you can use tracking to determine this value (and then we should agree on "what is value?"), even that tracking is subjective. Also, are you speaking as a designer looking to know how much to charge or as a company looking for a ROI, or something else?
    – Devin
    Aug 18 '15 at 21:05
  • When I say value, I mean dollar value (as indicated several times in my post). I'm personally a programmer, but this question arose after a discussion with my product manager, who needs to decide whether we should implement a new design. Aug 18 '15 at 21:09
  • Ok. So a 10 dollars logo made by someone with a cracked version of Photoshop has more or less value than a 10000 dollars logo made by a professional with a branding that may stand for decades? If I answer your question as is, then the answer is the 10 dollars logo. But I have the feeling I'm absolutely wrong. also, value is something really different to cost
    – Devin
    Aug 18 '15 at 21:25

Determining specific value of a design solution usually comes after implementation, rather than before. Prior to implementation you need to rely on industry research and the like.

What you can do prior to implementation, however, is prioritize. Your team and business likely have a lot of ideas as to how things can improve. What you need to do is put them on a matrix:

             Easy to                    Difficult to
             Implement ($)              Implement ($$$$)

High Value                      |          
to user                         |
                   A            |            B
                   B            |            C
Low Value                       |
to user                         |

Plot all of your feature ideas out on that x/y grid. Items that fall in the uppermost left (A) should be top priority. Items in the B quads should be debated and implemented as time permits. Items that fall into C should be re-evaluated in the future, but likely skipped altogether

  • nice and thoughtful approach
    – Devin
    Aug 18 '15 at 22:22
  • 1
    I'd personally argue that Difficult/High Value is more important than Easy/Low Value, as a streamlined high quality product is better than a medium-quality feature-filled-that-you'll-rarely-use product. Aug 19 '15 at 12:02
  • @NathanMerrill yes, in most cases I'd say you're right. That's why the features in those two quads need to be evaluated individually as you go.
    – DA01
    Aug 19 '15 at 14:38

Design is no different from any other business activity

  • Design is a business practice like any other, so measures of value depend on what the design and/or business objectives are.

To illustrate, here are a few examples:

  • Consider the following design projects:

    1. Designing a new shopping cart to increase purchase completion.
    2. Designing a launch button for a nuclear missile.
    3. Designing an office interior to reflect creative and open corporate values.
  • All 3 of these are legitimate design projects, but they have very different measures of value:

    • For #1, value can be specifically and accurately measured using A/B testing and other analytics tools. Measurements might include % improvement in purchase completion and/or dollar value of improvement in average customer purchase.
    • For #2, value is clear, but not easily measured. It's clear that poor labeling, poor safety design, or unclear function could be absolutely catastrophic for a nuclear launch button....but it's not easy to measure the value of spending $1, $100, or $100,000 on this design project.

      • Using econometric approaches you can always find SOME way of measuring value, but it's clear that this project is not nearly as easy to measure value for as project #1.
    • For #3, value is not as clear and not easily measured. The value of an improved office interior can be measured in terms of employee satisfaction, creative output, creativity, consistency with corporate values and mission, and so on. Many of these qualities are subjective, and will need to be weighed against and relative to each other to compute "value".

This is no different from...

...measuring the value of an accountant, corporate lawyer, engineer, gardener, or janitor. Each role brings different contribution to a company, and each may have specific or diffuse measures of value contributed, depending on the goals, values and mission of a company.

For design projects...

If value is important to the project (as it is for most projects), I suggest adopting the following general approaches, which are also consistent with best practices for general design:

  1. Establish a view of what success looks like. This may be specific and one-dimensional (e.g. improve signup rates), or diffuse and multivariate (e.g. improve employee productivity and happiness, and lower the noise in an office).

  2. Figure out how to measure value relative to success. There are many econometric frameworks available to do this, depending on how complex the goals are. Some popular approaches are:

  3. Evolve both the goals and the framework as the project progresses. Often, goals and success outcomes may not be clear at the start of a design project. But as the project evolves, these factors become clearer so the view of project value should correspondingly get more precise.

    • This evolving view of value works well in conjunction with modern approaches for managing project risk: as projects evolve, their definition (including estimates of value) should become clearer while delivery risk declines: enter image description here

...these approaches are not mutually exclusive (many can be used in conjunction) and there are many other approaches, but the links should provide a decent starting point for further reading.

  • 1
    I really like this answer. I think the key point is that measuring the value of a programmer spending time implementing feature X is no different than a janitor spending time fixing a pipe. Aug 19 '15 at 12:14

Why are you designing something new? I'm assuming for users.

Why not gauge it on the following:

  1. More traffic and longer site visits
  2. Amount of money made if your site is filled with e-commerce (ex: at work we gauge how effective a new redesign is by the increase of sales. Some analytics, a slight redesign of our homepage search increase our revenue by 1%... That's $100 million dollars made...)
  3. More user engagement towards your site's content

These could be ways to value a redesign. Take a hard look at what your business goals are and then align them to your designs and analytics.


An example of importance of correctly identifying the true nature of problem to provide best solution.

Two designers were given the task of reducing paper towel usage for a corporation. Designer one decided to replace all current dispensers with a new model that used smaller sized sheets of paper towels. Designer two kept the dispensers they already had — but repositioned them 18 inches higher on the wall.

Why did designer two's solution achieve a better outcome?

Designer two saw that the real issue was that people were not shaking excess water off their hands before reaching for a paper towel. When the position of dispensers was raised, people immediately noticed the excess water on their hands would run down their arms as they reached higher for a towel — this resulted in more people shaking off the excess before grabbing a paper towel... less moisture on hands resulted in less paper towel usage.

  • 1
    Hi George, can you cite any reference for your case?
    – Nash
    Mar 9 at 21:21

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