Measuring your product performance – PULSE vs. HEART

PULSE vs. HEART – an overview

Tracking of product metrics occur on various levels. PULSE and HEART stand for a logical structure of metrics to measure several aspects of your web product performance. PULSE reflects a more low-level and direct approach to performance figures. HEART on the other hand focuses on the customer experience.

Find an in-depth description of both performance frameworks in this paper from Google “Measuring the User Experience on a Large Scale: User-Centered Metrics for Web Applications” by Kerry Rodden, Hilary Hutchinson and Xin Fu.  How did I came across the HEART framework? Well, I found this inspiring talk by Roan Lavery, co-founder and CPO at freeagent: “Driving Growth vs. Building Core Value” at a mindtheproduct conference in 2018. In the video he describes – amongst other aspects – how they applied the HEART framework at freeagent.

PULSE – low-level and direct

The PULSE framework focuses heavily on direct impact KPI’s to measure the performance of large-scale web products. They typically reflect technical or business aspects of the performance. PULSE stands for Page views, Uptime, Latency, Seven-day active users and Earnings. 

Page views reflects the amount of users visiting your site. Uptime gives the percentage of time the server infrastructure is up, running and serving content. Latency gives a proper indication of the performance of your site infrastructure and your overall software development efforts on execution speed. Seven-day active users says a lot about retention – the ability of your site or product to motivate people to come back multiple times within 7 days. Even if seven-day active users looks like an user centric KPI it doesn’t tell anything about the level of satisfaction of your users. Earnings, finally, gives a good indication if the product works – or not.

These dimensions of a product are definitely worthwhile watching and should be observed thoroughly. But – are they good candidates to focus on user centered product development? Are they any good when it comes to value generation?  

HEART – higher level and user focused

The HEART framework is less generic, it costs more work to identify the right metrics – but it helps a lot to focus on users and makes value generation the most important goal. HEART is more adjusted to the individual product, it’s less direct and needs a good understanding of the product to measure. HEART stands for Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention and Task Succes. 

Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention and Task Success in a nutshell

Happiness is a very fluffy description of a very important state of mind of product users. If the product touches people, if it really helps it makes user more happy. A variety of KPI’s express the happiness of your users. The KPI’s are very product specific – in our case we took “Net Promoter Score”, “User Survey”, “#Bugs on the board” and “Upvote index” to measure this very qualitative dimension.

Engagement measures the level of engagement of users with your site. It’s not overall engagement with a site in general, it’s engagement with the core aspects of the site. Focus is on specific pages and sections that are critical for the value perception of the user. We track “PI per Visit”, “Engagement on QDP” (our most important page type), “User activity”.  

Adoption focuses on the amount of new users discovering the product and actually decide to become active. We decided to go with “#Registrations” and “Daily Activation”.

Retention measures the amount of users coming back to the product and use the product over a period of time. We measure retention with “Stickiness 30d” and “Churn Rate”.

Task Success measures the amount of tasks completed by the users. Not any tasks – those tasks providing most value to our users. It’s important to understand how many users are really engaged with the product and perceive value from the most valuable functions of the site. We are looking at “Q&A Index” (ratio of answers and questions per user), “Time 2 Answer” and “HA Ratio” (ratio of helpful answers to all answers).

Final Thoughts

Engagement, Adoption and Retention metrics are typically measured over specific periods of time. For some products it might be worthwhile to focus on a 7-day-period others might need a 30-day-period.

We’re still fresh on HEART but I strongly believe it will change the way we develop our product in future. 

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