There is a lot of buzz about data-driven design, but very little agreement about what data-driven design really means. Even deciding how to define data is difficult for teams with spotty access to data within their organizations, uneven understanding, and little shared language. For any site or app, it's standard practice to have analytics, A/B tests, surveys, intercepts, benchmarks, scores of usability tests, ethnographic studies, and interviews. So what counts as data? And more importantly, what will inform design in a meaningful way?
In trying to understand what data-driven design is, we can start with what data-driven design is not. Then maybe we can work toward how data might actually help make user experience better.