Creativity and data may seem contrary to one another and some creatives might even declare data their enemy. But the relationship between the two is longstanding. While data has previously been used solely to measure the effectiveness of design, there’s been a dynamic shift in recent years. As we gain more and more access to data about our audiences, data-led creativity has come into play. Now, data isn’t used merely to optimize or validate design ideas, but also to generate them.

Traditionally, creatives have relied on their instincts or best practices to guide design. A data-informed design process, on the contrary, incorporates data from the beginning of the design process to support the work and identify users’ pain points. By leading with data, the design process becomes more objective and more in line with what users actually want and need. The work is informed by data at every turn, resulting in more impactful design. If you’re not using data to drive your design, you’re behind the curve and missing out on a huge opportunity to work smarter and spend less.

Not all data is good data though. And you don’t want to overwhelm your creative team by granting them access to all of the available data you have about your audience. So the question is… Which data is relevant to your design process?

The first place to look is your analytics. Here, you can understand how your users are getting to your site, which sections they’re interacting with, which sections they’re not interacting with and more. Simply put, you can look at a glance to see what’s currently working with your design and what’s not. From there, you can invite your creative team to give their input and dive deeper into the data to determine what you can replicate (or avoid) in future design.

If your analytics feels a little impersonal, you can go directly to your users. Send out a survey related to a specific upcoming design need or give your customers an ongoing opportunity to provide feedback. This pairs qualitative data with the quantitative data from your analytics to form a more well-rounded approach and understanding of your users. You can even go a step further and create archetypes to discover behavioral patterns of your users.

Along the same lines, don’t forget the emotional aspect. Consumer choices are still largely driven by emotions and your design should reflect an understanding of that. If you’re in touch with your audience, you’ll likely find that your data supports the instincts of your creative team. The key here is to use data to inform your design, not be the end all-be all of the decision-making process.

In a competitive marketplace, everyone has a voice. Data ensures yours stands out—and is relevant to your audience.

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