The Secret to Measuring a Project’s Success

Image of a woman measuring a computer mouse

I went on a job interview for a Creative Director position at a mid-size branding and web design agency once and the question I was most excited to ask my interviewers was, “How do you measure a project’s success?”

What I really wanted was for them to tell me they had a department that studied clients’ analytics and revenue numbers before and after the launch of new branding and new websites and provided impressive figures to their clients to back up their work.

But their answer was a lot simpler than that.

They said that they measure project success with a more loose client satisfaction measure. Are clients coming back for repeat business? Are they sending referrals?

I was so disappointed to hear that answer.

I really wanted them to tell me that they had all this data behind why their work is successful – that they had people whose job it was to study things like that. Why am I interviewing for a job at a company with a full team if they can’t back up their services more than I am now – with testimonials and referrals?

This company and I were luckily not a good fit or I wouldn’t be here doing what I’m doing today. But, after letting that answer sort of gel in the back of my mind over time, I’m a lot less disappointed with the answer and I’m feeling a lot more secure in measuring my own small business’s success with my client projects.
Analytics are hard (when was the last time you logged into your Google Analytics account and didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of dread) and isolating factors to measure the success of a design is even harder – unless you have the budget for large scale A/B testing of every little detail like big corporations do.

And controlling for factors outside of your control is even harder.

Maybe the project was a huge success analytic-wise because the client did a big launch for their new branding with a giveaway. Or maybe it bombed because the client got super busy in their own business and didn’t tell anyone about the new site and hasn’t even updated their social media with their new visual identity.

In addition, it’s uncomfortable to hand over access to your analytics and campaign results to a third party, so it’s rare that I get that type of feedback from my clients, and apparently it’s something that some design agencies don’t stress too much about either. This is definitely an area where in-house design and marketing groups have a leg up.

But How Does It Make You Feel?

As a business owner, you’re going to know if your new designs are successful.

  • Are you getting more calls than you were before?
  • Are you feeling more confident in promoting yourself now?
    This is KEY because we’re so reluctant to promote ourselves when our branding and website doesn’t match up with what we feel we can offer. So it’s hard to make 1:1 comparisons if you’re sharing your products and services more often post-launch.
  • Do you feel the urge to tell your business friends about how excellent your new brand and website are? Do you want to refer them to your designer?

Now, none of this is to discredit the science of studying your analytics and investing in your SEO. But it’s hard for me as a designer – not an SEO, Facebook ads, or email marketing consultant – to get solid facts and figures to say, yes this design is 50% more successful than the previous.

But, I’m watching your social media outlets, keeping an eye on how you drive people to your site or if someone lands in my inbox saying you sent them to me. I check out your sales pages and opt-in to your programs and see whether or not you’re using the assets we created together. I get a feel for a project’s success one way or another.

What About Long Term Client Satisfaction?

I always ask clients shortly after completing a project how they’re feeling. But following up – 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years later – isn’t something I’ve implemented in my business.

Some clients choose to work with us long term to fulfill their visual design needs, but some companies don’t need that level of assistance and honestly those folks have kinda fallen off my radar. Yes, I check their websites and social media to see if they’re still using those assets, but I haven’t heard from them personally to see if those designs are still fulfilling their needs in terms of style and versatility.

Perfecting a long-term, no-pressure, follow-up email is something I’m working on to make sure clients know I care about what we created together.

How Do You Measure Client Success In Your Business?

As I’m sitting here writing this, I’m thinking maybe a quick follow up survey for those clients we worked with over a year ago with quick multiple choice questions would be both easier for clients to complete and provide that non-salesy approach I’m after.

So hey, there’s one solution for you!

But I’m dying to know, how do you measure client success in YOUR business? Numbers, feelings, or feedback surveys — I’m all ears!

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Jessica Suhr

I'm a designer, gardener, and animal lover, hell bent on creating beautiful, cohesive brands for fun-loving and level-headed small business owners. Read more about me here.

Keep reading, friend!


  1. Julienne on March 14, 2021 at 5:26 am

    Great read here. Gives me some things to think about.