Why use OKRs?
Most designers are embedded in functional teams, and their focus aligns with the priorities of the group. Are they in a Marketing team? Then they're mostly working Acquisition. Are they part of a Product team? They're surely tackling Activation and Retention problems.
It's safe to say that designers can work on any part of the user journey.
But you can also consider Design as its own function, and think about how they can improve things across the entire organization. A goal-setting framework like OKRs can look inwards to enhance processes or outwards to bring consistency across all experiences.
How efficient is our design process?
Do we offer a consistent experience across our tools and services?
How close are we to our customers?
How to write OKRs for Design?
Step 1. Understanding OKRs vs. Projects
Before jumping into the OKRs process, it is essential to understand the difference between Objectives, Key Results, and projects:
- Objectives: what do we want to achieve next quarter?
- Key Results: how are we going to measure progress?
- Projects: what are our best bets to get there?
Having this set of questions in mind will help you ensure that you're not mistaking projects for Key Results or Objectives.
A good Objective should be inspiring and easy to understand by anyone in your org. You can be more specific in the Key Results, but the Objectives should help every function understand the current focus and how they can contribute.
A good Key Result should follow the rules of the SMART framework. In particular, it should be relevant to its parent Objective, measurable through the quarter, and time-bound. A good test is to ask, "would we do things differently if this KR goes off-track?". If the answer is negative, then you need to refine your OKR.
Finally, your projects are the things that will move the needle on your Key Results. They're bets that you make with the team. Some will work—double down on it. Some will fail, and it should be okay to stop and move on to the next idea.
Step 2. Narrow down your focus
OKRs are all about focus, but it can be hard for Design to isolate themes given that they often work across a large set of projects and functions.
One option is to look into other framework such as Google's HEART method to identify a set of priorities.
Step 3. Write your plan
Start with the Objectives and make sure that everyone on the team understands what they mean. You want them to be concise, but also precise enough that they give a clear sense of direction.
Avoid general statements like "Create great experiences" and instead focus on the expected outcome, "Users engage with our platform more often".
You'll see some examples below, and here's a guide about writing OKRs if you're just getting started.
Example of Design OKRs
OKRs for Design Systems
All teams can rapidly build consistent UIs
100% of UI components can be found in the Design System guidelines
All form items are included in the Design System UI Kit
80% of the teams are using the UI Kit to build new features
OKRs for Design issues
Reduce significantly the UX issues found in production
At least 20 design tests are run every month
UX issues represent fewer than 20% of new bug reports
100 users have signed up for our early-access program
OKRs for branding
Build a strong, consistent brand
Our brand guidelines cover 100% of our public facing assets
80% of people can clearly identify our brand vs. other competitors in blind tests
All websites/emails/keynotes are using the new brand guidelines
OKRs for UX feedback
Develop a voice-of-the-customer program
Recruit 100 users for our UX lab
Conduct 5 UX tests per week
Achieve 70%+ open rate on our customer feedback newsletter
You can find many more OKRs for Design examples in our templates library.
Tracking your OKRs
Knowing how to write good OKRs is critical, but without good tracking in place, the OKRs will fade away and focus will be lost.
The easier it is for a team to have weekly discussions around the OKRs, the better they'll execute. Here are a few best practices for tracking OKRs.
1. Do weekly check-ins
Quarterly OKRs should be tracked every week to be effective. Without a continuous reflection on progress, your OKRs won't be much different from having KPIs.
The check-ins process can be automated with a platform like Tability that takes care of reminders, and distribute updates to the teams.
2. Keep track of your confidence
Good progress updates should help everyone understand how far we are from our goal, but also how confident we are in achieving it. You can use a simple red/yellow/green color coding to indicate your confidence.
3. Make trends easy to see
Lastly, it's important to look at trends to avoid false positives. It's not rare for a team to have a hot start and then slow down mid quarter. This will be hard to see unless you can look at progress trends for individual Key Results.
What other Design metrics can you use?
Now that you've got good Objectives, it's time to pick some key results and finding good metrics that work for your team can be tricky. Lucky for you, we've laid out all the best success metrics for your teams to use.
Here are a few to get you started:
Tests run to validate existing and proposed user experiences.
How people engaged with your app, websites and services.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Measures how likely users are to recommend your product.
How many evaluators turn into active users.
How many users come back to the product.
Number steps for X
How many steps it takes for a user to do X
Open/closed rate of design issues
What the ratio of open to close issues related to design
How many users abandon a task before completing it
Table of contents
Stop wasting your OKRs. Focus on the right work and accomplish your goals.