Many designers balk at the mention of any type of organization or structure. They much prefer to let their creativity dictate actions and outcomes.

However, web design is a business, and as such, designers need a system to execute and evaluate effort. That’s where SMART goals come into play.

Why Do I Need Goals?!

The type of goals you establish will depend on a variety of things–like whether you provide other services beyond web design, if you work solo or as part of a team, etc. But regardless of the type of goals, there is one absolute certainty–you need them!

Here’s why.

goals and action

1. Goals incite action.

By setting goals, you are forced to choose a path, establish a vision. You know exactly what you are working towards. Without goals, you could easily be led astray or flounder aimlessly.

John Doherty of Credo recently said, “Don’t get caught up in the minutiae…start doing what people will pay you for…Figure out what you have to offer people, start getting it in front of them, ring the cash register, build from there.”

2. Goals define workload and priorities.

Goals help you determine what needs to be done and when.

With properly formatted goals, you should never miss a deadline because you won’t be sidetracked by trivial or mundane things that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Goals also help reduce confusion. If you are part of a team, you know exactly who is responsible for what and how their efforts will impact yours–and how yours will impact theirs.

3. Goals reduce the risk of unnecessary effort.

Being creative, working with demanding clients–it is easy to get lost in the tiny details. Perfectionists are in danger of never accomplishing anything because the final product is never “good enough.”

Goals can help these types of people by ensuring there isn’t unnecessary effort applied to a project. This is important because unnecessary effort can cause you to miss deadlines, increase costs, and reduce revenue.

Have you ever heard of the phrase “minimum viable product”? This is essentially the idea of doing the bare minimum, exerting just the amount of effort necessary to produce a viable product. From there, you can receive feedback and take the project to the next level.

team goals

4. Goals solidify teamwork.

If you are working as part of a team, goals can help establish camaraderie. They help ensure you all get across the finish line and that there is someone there to push you forward if you fall behind.

5. Goals ensure you get credit for your hard work.

Effort can become anonymized in group projects. But if you set a goal, your effort can be recognized and rewarded.

Even if you aren’t working as a team, you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you aren’t recognizing your accomplishments, it can be easy to get discouraged in times of difficulty.

What Are SMART Goals?

Ok, so you know what a goal is, but what makes a goal SMART? SMART is a goal setting framework and an acronym for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time Bound

An example of a SMART goal might be to increase website traffic by 5% by November 1.

This goal is specific because it outlines exactly what is supposed to happen–increase website traffic. It is measurable because it includes a quantifiable variable–5%. It is attainable if past performance indicates that 5% isn’t an unreasonable outcome. It is relevant because website traffic is often a key performance indicator used to evaluate web design. And it is time bound because there is a deadline–November 1.

Are SMART Goals Realistic for Web Design?

Some have argued that SMART goals aren’t necessary for web designers. What true-blue creatives argue with is the “measurable” component.

For example, one marketing expert quoted Albert Einstein: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

However, the “measurable” component really is a necessary aspect for most goals. Without it, there isn’t accountability. Take, for example, the goal we mentioned earlier: increase website traffic by 5% by November 1. Without the measurable quantifier, you could technically check this goal off your list once traffic increased by just a couple of people.

Consider all the measurable goals a web designer might have:

  • Reduce errors by Xx%
  • Meet Xx% of deadlines
  • Increase revenue by Xx% or $Xx
  • Reach Xx social engagements
  • Improve client acquisition by Xx%

To compensate for the stress applied to creatives by the “measurable” element, some designers take solace in SMARTER goals by adding “enjoyable” and “rewarding.”

How Do I Write SMART Goals?

If you’ve accepted the premise that goals are important and they should be SMART, here are some things to consider as you write your own.

Create a mixture of goals.

Your goals might include a combination of the following:

  • Personal development goals like increase productivity or take a class
  • Citizenship goals like respond to emails faster or attend more company culture events
  • Leadership goals like mentor a fellow designer or speak at a conference

Write goals, not tasks.

It is easy to get tunnel vision and create a list of tasks instead of a list of goals.

This tip speaks to the importance of the “measurable” component of SMART goals.

For example, something like “change the color scheme of site XYZ.com by October 15” is just a task. The goal would be to increase conversions by 5% by October 15. Changing the color scheme would be just one task you’d implement to achieve your goal. Another task might be to change the position of the buttons. All these tasks would be executed as you try to accomplish your goal.

Consult your mission and vision statements.

Your goals should align with your overall mission and vision. Any objective that doesn’t fit into the big picture is just wasted effort.

Find an accountability partner.

If you work as part of a team, share your goals with everyone else. Not only does this ensure your own goals are realistic when integrated with those of everyone else, but you’ll also have someone checking up on you.

If you are flying solo, ask someone to be your accountability partner. Check in periodically and share your progress. Don’t try to operate in a vacuum. You’ll run the risk of negating the importance of your goals or becoming discouraged when you fall short.

Go Be SMART!

We’d encourage you to take a moment now and think about what you want to accomplish in the near future. Then, come back and tell us about what you have planned!

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