Archive for the ‘Making Money’ Category

Does good design really matter?

April 27, 2007

Because it’s so hard to measure the business value of good design, it naturally gets less attention from managers. It’s easier to watch things like visitors to a website, sales per day, rent and other costs.

Recently we got a chance to see how much it matters when we rolled out a redesign for our Freedback service. Here are some of the changes we made:

  • Reduced the number of steps required to create a form from four to three.

  • Removed list of forms on the left to reduce visual clutter.

  • Added breadcrumb navigation so it’s easier to see where you are.

  • Users now create forms first, then decide what happens when they’re submitted.

(Hold your mouse over the image to toggle
between the new and old versions)

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To be honest, when we rolled out the new software we hoped to get lots of emails thanking us for the new interface.  Didn’t happen.  We did get a few phone calls, mostly from people reporting bugs, and by the way did we change something?

After squashing a few bugs all was well with the world.  We never did get much customer reaction, so we watched our graphs to see if we could see any change in how people used the software.

Number of forms created


Thoughts and Conclusions

  • When things are easy to use, people use them more.
  • We didn’t see a dramatic increase in revenue from new users who had never seen the older version, but older accounts coming up for renewal were more likely to upgrade.  This agrees with previous experience from other system upgrades; existing users like to see software improving.
  • Hopefully this will translate into more links, reviews and word of mouth traffic, but that’s harder to correlate to this change because it takes time.


My wife knows much more than I do about graphing data (she’s an astronomer), and was nice enough to plot a graph using the raw data that better showed the results we were seeing.

This graph is showing daily Freedback revenue before and after the change (note the y-axis doesn’t start at zero).

  • The green dots are days.
  • The black line is a four-week moving average.
  • The 13% represents the difference between one month before and after the change. It held true for six weeks before and after as well.
  • Our weekly revenue cycle (lowest on weekends) results in a lot of scatter.

I hope this data is useful to other entrepreneurs wondering if they should invest in design, questions or comments welcome. I’ll keep posting graphs and results from tests we’re running – if you’re interested you can subscribe to our feed.