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The Google HEART framework is a user experience measurement system designed to assess the overall user satisfaction and effectiveness of a product. Google’s GSM framework is a strategic approach for setting and achieving objectives in product development. Together, they prove invaluable to quantify the value of each requirement, and provides a mechanic to measure its success.

To clarify:

  1. Requirements (goals) need signals to indicate success or failure.
  2. Signals need to be measurable over time (quantifiable metrics).
  3. A baseline should be established before any work to accurately measure change.

Using these frameworks can seem tedious, especially at the start of a project with stakeholders pushing for momentum, but they will prove invaluable long term, especially for stakeholders when they need budget approval for their next project and need to show evidence of success.

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Google HEART framework

The acronym “HEART” stands for:

Happiness

  • Focuses on user satisfaction and overall happiness with the product.
  • Measures through user surveys, feedback, and sentiment analysis.

Engagement

  • Evaluates the level of user engagement and interaction with the product.
  • Measures user activity, frequency of use, and the depth of engagement.

Adoption

  • Assesses how well the product is being adopted by users.
  • Measures user growth, onboarding success, and feature adoption.

Retention

  • Examines user retention and the ability to keep users over time.
  • Measures user churn rates and the longevity of user engagement.

Task Success

  • Focuses on the efficiency and effectiveness of users in completing tasks.
  • Measures success rates, completion times, and error rates in task performance.

Google GSM framework

Google’s Goals, Signals, Metrics (GSM) framework establishes high-level goals, identifies signals that indicate success and failure, and how you might quantify and measure success. This structured approach fosters clarity, alignment, and data-driven decision-making in product development. The framework comprises three key components:

Goals

  • Broad, qualitative statements that articulate the overarching aspirations of the product.
  • Provide direction and purpose, guiding the team toward a common objective.
  • Example:
    Enhance user engagement to foster a sense of community.

Signals

  • Observable and measurable indicators that reflect progress or achievement of the goals.
  • Act as leading indicators, helping teams understand if they are on the right track.
  • Example:
    Increase in daily active users.
    Longer average session durations.

Metrics

  • Quantitative measures tied to signals that offer concrete data for evaluating success.
  • Provide tangible benchmarks, enabling precise tracking and assessment of progress.
  • Sources:
    • Analytics (user analytics and system logs)
    • User feedback (surveys and interviews) at key phases.
  • Example:
    10% increase in user engagement.
    20% reduction in bounce rate.

Quantifying survey metrics

When performing surveys and interviews to gather metrics, consider how the data will be translated to a graph and whether it will be weighted (where some user groups’ feedback carry more weight than others).

“Tell us about your experience in the new search centre, compared to how you searched for documents before.”

This is a great question and may garner excellent feedback, but cannot be quantified. Alongside these types of questions, also consider detailed questions that can be answered on a 4-point sliding scale, with answers that are specific to the question (vs. a generic bad to good scale), and their key indicators, e.g.:

“Compared to searching the file server, how easy was it to find documents in the new search centre?”

  1. impossible (a warning indicator that users might revert back to old systems or use workarounds)
  2. difficult
  3. slightly better
  4. excellent (the indicator of success)

This forces the customer to exercise an opinion other than indifference, steering the future of the application and helping your team avoid the pitfalls of customers finding workarounds.

Real-world example

The frameworks are typically used in a table with HEART as row titles, and GSM as column titles. In our example, we use a more mobile-friendly approach with titles and lists.

HEART (as row titles) and GSM (as column titles) in table format.

This example demonstrates how the HEART framework focuses on specific aspects of user experience, while the GSM framework translates these goals into measurable signals and metrics. For a gardening tips website, the goal is to create a happy and engaged community, drive user adoption and retention, and ensure successful task completion for users seeking valuable gardening information. The signals and metrics provide quantifiable measures to track progress and success in achieving these goals.

Happiness

  • Goal:
    • Increase user satisfaction by creating a visually appealing and user-friendly blog.
    • Build a thriving online community of gardening enthusiasts.
  • Signal:
    • High levels of user engagement and positive feedback.
  • Metric:
    • User surveys.

Engagement

  • Goal:
    • Enhance user interaction and engagement with informative gardening content.
    • Increase the average time spent on the website per visit.
  • Signal:
    • Longer average session durations, increased page views per visit.
  • Metric:
    • User and page view analytics.

Adoption

  • Goal:
    • Encourage new users to subscribe to the newsletter and return for regular updates.
    • Grow the website’s user base and cultivate a loyal readership.
  • Signal:
    • Growth in newsletter subscriptions, increased returning visitors.
  • Metric:
    • Active subscriber count, page view analytics

Retention

  • Goal:
    • Encourage users to return to the website regularly for fresh gardening tips.
    • Retain users by providing valuable and consistently updated content.
  • Signal:
    • Low bounce rates, sustained user engagement over time.
  • Metric:
    • User and page view analytics.

Task Success

  • Goal:
    • Optimize website navigation and search functionality for user-friendly task completion.
    • Ensure users can easily find and access gardening tips and advice.
  • Signal:
    • High success rates in finding and accessing relevant gardening content.
  • Metric:
    • User and page view analytics

When to use the frameworks

The Google HEART framework is particularly useful in various scenarios where a comprehensive assessment of user experience is crucial for product development and improvement.

We recommend using the HEART and GSM frameworks whenever possible, but strongly recommend it for projects:

  • with large and diverse audience,
  • where complex tasks and long forms are unavoidable, and
  • where users may find other, less ideal ways of completing their tasks, resulting in missing, poor quality or incorrect data.

Here are some other situations where you may want to consider the HEART framework:

New product launch

  • Use HEART to measure and understand the initial user experience with a newly launched product.
  • Assess user satisfaction, engagement, and adoption rates to identify areas for improvement.

Product redesign

  • Employ HEART when redesigning an existing product to evaluate the impact of design changes.
  • Measure changes in user happiness, engagement, and task success to ensure a positive impact.

User onboarding and adoption

  • Apply HEART when introducing new features or onboarding processes to gauge their effectiveness.
  • Measure adoption rates and user satisfaction to optimize onboarding experiences.

Post-release assessment

  • Use HEART after a major release to assess its impact on user experience.
  • Evaluate changes in user engagement, satisfaction, and retention to inform future iterations.

Continuous improvement

  • Integrate HEART into ongoing product development cycles for continuous user experience improvement.
  • Regularly monitor and analyse user metrics to iteratively enhance the product.

User research and feedback analysis

  • Leverage HEART in conjunction with user research and feedback analysis to validate qualitative insights with quantitative metrics.
  • Use signals and metrics to validate or challenge assumptions derived from user research.

Cross-functional collaboration

  • Apply HEART when collaborating across different teams or departments to align goals and metrics.
  • Ensure a shared understanding of the impact of changes on user experience.

Data-driven decision-making

  • Implement HEART when a data-driven approach is essential for decision-making.
  • Use the framework to quantify user experience and guide decisions based on concrete metrics.

Conclusion and further reading

There are lots of information about this topic on the web. The 2 most definitive sources on the HEART and GSM frameworks for further reading:

Overall, the Google HEART framework is versatile and can be adapted to various stages of the product lifecycle, providing a structured and comprehensive approach to measuring and enhancing user experience.

You might find it easy to identify goals and more difficult to identify the signals and metrics, but from personal experience, this exercise is invaluable, and be easier each time you use it.

Last updated 16 Dec 2023

About the Author: Stephan

With 20 years of industry experience as a UX specialist, designer and developer, I enjoy teaching and sharing insights about UX, accessibility and best practices for e-commerce and the web.

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