UX Goals Should Be Actions

I recently had a conversation with a former student about how to measure a real-life website. As we talked I realized that a lot of her difficulties were coming from loosely-defined goals.


When you design a site, or when a client/boss comes to you with a website that needs to be analyzed (which happens a lot), you need to know what you’re measuring.

One of the first steps in any UX process is to define your goals.

Clients, bosses, marketers, and other colleagues — who don’t know any better — will often come to you with a goal in mind, but that doesn’t mean you should use it.

Clients might suggest goals like “showcase our products”. 

Marketers might suggest goals like “increase awareness of our new campaign.”

Bosses might say shit like “we want to increase engagement by 20%”.

Those are not goals because they are not measurable.


First of all “showcasing” products doesn’t really mean anything. It just means the client wants their shit to look awesome.

But more importantly, even if you showcase the hell out of those products, the user doesn’t have to do anything for a product to be “showcased”. So there is no way for you to measure if your design changes worked. 

Awareness happens in the user’s head. If you figure out a way to measure people’s thoughts, let me know. In real life “awareness” is a phase in the marketing plan, so to a marketing it might sound like a goal, but it isn’t. 

You want to the user to do something with that awareness.

Engagement is just a word. It doesn’t mean anything either. You can tell that engagement isn’t a goal, because the first thing you have to do is define what it means. Do you want users to stay longer? Share more? See more pages? Come back more often?

Also, never define your goals by how much you want them to increase. A goal is a behaviour, not a percentage. What if you can increase engagement by 50%? Would you stop at 20%?


Goals should be actions. 

If you want to measure whether people see your products or not, you should measure clicks on the buy button for those products. After all, if your design makes people see the products but they don’t do anything about it, what’s the point?

Clicking the “Buy” button is an action.

If you want to measure whether people are aware of the campaign or not, you can ask them, give them a survey, or — if you prefer facts over opinions — you can make a dedicated landing page for the campaign and measure it separately from the rest of the site.

Clicking the “tell me more” button on the landing page is an action.

You might notice that all of the ways I suggested for defining “engagement” require the user to do something specific. But if you really want to track engagement, decide why engagement is good for your site.

If you really want them to register then measure registrations.

If you want to show more ads, then track pages-per-visit.

If you want them to explore your site, maybe you should measure how many users search or click “next” at the bottom of the page.


No matter what goals you choose, make it specific, and make it something the user does. Not just something that makes you feel good.