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Using Design Ops to Scale Your Agency (And Make Things Simpler)



In an age where over half of the globe uses the internet, brands have started to pay attention to their marketing strategies more than ever. With over 4 billion people online, it’s only natural that the demand for design, more importantly, sound design, increases in the market.

As an agency, regardless of whether you specialize in design or not, it is highly crucial to stay on top of every trend shift. This is where we introduce you to the idea of design ops or design operations.

Modern-day enterprises (including agencies) have already begun implementing design operations to scale their business further. Let’s check how they’re making it possible and increasing efficiency overall.  

What is Design Ops?  

Now, basics before everything. We realize that not all readers here will be aware of what design ops are. We’ll cover that right now to clear any and all doubts that you may have. This will also help you understand the rest of this article better.  

Design operations is a flexible term that refers to either a team or one person who plans, crafts, and organizes all design processes to improve overall design value (and impacts). The design ops are also responsible for ensuring that the most convenient solutions are provided for challenges faced by design teams.

Interestingly, design ops do not necessarily focus only on designing since the leaders are usually out there to manage a whole set of projects. They take care of even more aspects, such as budgeting and building the ideal team for different projects. One such aspect, and an important one nonetheless, is structuring.

There has to be a clear line of hierarchy that informs workers who report to whom and how authority is set in place. This also determines the general workflow that flows throughout different teams within an organization, such as IT support, innovation, product management, etc., at a large scale.

All in all, design ops is present to ensure that every step is taken according to plan and that your teams do what they’re best skilled at.

How does design ops help in scaling an agency?

Now that we’ve covered design ops and its basic workflow, it’s time to visit how the whole idea can help scale your agency.

If your agency keeps expanding at a decent rate, you’re bound to face one of the two challenges; you keep hiring more people or have an extremely complex workflow within your services. Here’s how design operations help agencies scale :

They Hire The Best People in Town

There’s another thing that design operations are responsible for – hiring the best talents for your agency. You’ll encounter a project or two at times that require extreme specialization or experience to get the job done. Take, for example, animators. According to AIE, the average salary for an experienced art director is around $70,000 (annually). It doesn’t make much sense to have another employee on the payroll for simply one extra project.

Design operations can help you hire part-time freelancers with the same talents and experience needed for the project. In fact, there’s a better chance that the freelancer they hire is more suited for the specific task than anyone you might hire.

Keep Things in Check

Your team cannot function without a proper goal or roadmap in mind. Design ops help create robust plans, coach team members, and develop strategies that help in communication to lower the challenges your team may face.

It’s also vital to remember that design ops are the only one who communicates with everyone from the client to every member of the design team. They are the closest to your client and team; hence they’re more aware than anyone on board about important decisions.

How to Implement Design Ops in your agency?

Convinced with the capabilities of top-notch design ops yet? Let’s deep dive into understanding how you can implement it in your agency. We all know the significance of a good design. It needs to be near to perfection.

However, in reality, there are enormous challenges that a designer faces. Sometimes it can even be overwhelming to decide where you should start implementing effective changes. Here’s how you should implement design operations for your agency:


The first step is to understand what your design team struggles most with. You can do this by conducting surveys and getting feedback on the workload, tiresome tasks, common problems everyone faces, etc. Also, remember to not undertake projects from clients that you may not be able to complete.

Finding the Solution

Once you’ve got all the problems listed, explore the different possible ways these issues can be dealt with. This is where you can assign value to the different sectors of your agency and predict how they may be affected if you bring in these changes. Assigning values to different areas is only needed for agencies that aren’t specializing in design alone and work in other fields as well.

Get Things Going

The next step is to prioritize which problems need to be tackled before others. Creating a roadmap will also prove to be of great help here. You’ll also need to understand the kind of productivity in need of each plan.

This will assist you in abandoning any poor-performing strategies or propelling the ones who are doing better.

And let’s not forget how identifying the issues and coming up with solutions is just the tip of the iceberg. This is precisely why companies have shifted to rely on operational managers or a team of design ops guides, which we’ll go into detail later.

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Signs your agency can make use of design ops

By now, you have probably gotten a clear image of the impacts of a design ops, but is it time your organization also needs one? Well you won’t be able to answer that question unless you notice certain signs within the working of your agency. To help you understand better, let’s look at some signs which indicate you require a design guide:

Your design team has grown

If your design team size has expanded, you will need to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of creativity. Honestly, there’s only so much you can handle. Generally, you will lose your team flow in such scenarios since they do not follow explicit guidelines as per higher-ups. This is where design ops comes in handy.

Design ops will build a bridge between the marketing team and what your client desires. They also manage the entire process of designing. You can develop a more intrinsic approach to guide your team and get the expected output.

Even the most minor tasks get proper review and approval. This way, quality is never compromised, and work gets done quickly.

You have specialized roles in design

Another common indication is that you require more specialized designers; for instance, you have illustrators, motion animators, etc. They function strictly for that specified role but then again, it’s almost near impossible to micro-manage each activity.

However, if you introduce design ops, they can simplify instructions that drive designers to work seamlessly. In short, they scrutinize the workflow of all team members and allocate them tasks respectively.

High demand for design work

A big reason your agency needs a design ops is that you are getting bombarded with tasks. We know it’s quite hectic, thus you will often see chaos when it comes to collaboration across all team members.

Hence, it is crucial to align the designers to have a clear direction. When designers need to send work at a faster pace, there should be a filter where quality is always maintained. Also, everything isn’t to be done by employees.

The importance of design ops

Designers have to juggle many different tasks and a pile of responsibilities to ensure a better customer experience. While delegating numerous responsibilities to designers might give some teams satisfactory results, this takes a toll on coordination, scaling, and efficiency.

Hence, before understanding the significance of design ops, it is equally (if not more) important to take a closer look at the key challenges and complexities faced by designers.

Designers have a lot on their plate

With the increasing demand and more investment by organizations in design, managing roles and creating a system becomes more intricate.

As a result, designers are left to carry out an overwhelming volume of work besides attending countless meetings, catching up with emails, Getting the right contents and handling project management.

Isolation of the design team

Having a centralized team would allow designers to work more collectively and have constant interactions to evaluate feedback. However, this often leaves designers isolated with the whole team only receiving work requests from other departments.

Consequently, the ineffective coordination leads to constraints being discovered at the end of the process and slows down the delivery and iterations.

Lack of available tools

The lack of proper tools, resources, and technology coupled with changing requirements and specifications pressure designers. Additionally, the demand for high-speed delivery translates into poor quality design.

If your technology isn’t updated, it will be a big gap for your employees to get things done. Think of it like this; you cannot create digital illustrations unless you have a stylus.

Whether it be animations, graphic designing, or even user software testing, there are a plethora of options available online, leaving you with the responsibility of picking the best one.

Now design ops are what we would call an ‘insider’ because they can distinguish between the tech tools that only talk and those that can perform well.

They not only address the inefficiencies that hamper the design process to streamline effortlessly, but also provide solutions to build a system that consists of coordination, coaction, structure, and roles.

Design operations solve bottlenecks in the organisation and play an essential role in overcoming the issue of miscommunication between designers and other departments.

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Real-Life Examples

Now that we have a deep understanding of how design ops make agencies more functional and efficient. It’s time to take notes from real-life examples of businesses that have implemented these practices and discover how it has benefited them.


The infinite scrolling down Pinterest for inspiration is a common phenomenon among many creatives today. The visual pinboard website is among the most popular image-based social media networks, with about 433 million monthly active users worldwide.

Surprisingly, the co-founders of Pinterest were both designers, which is no wonder why the platform is known for its remarkable design execution and intelligent user interface. With a rapidly growing business and a team of designers, Pinterest decided to implement design ops to tackle its scaling.

Getty Images

Another company that implemented design ops is Getty Images. They introduced the team to the product design. Simply put, their goal was to accelerate the design process and push the development. They created systems and efficient procedures that refined the workflow.

Overall, these companies didn’t do anything too crazy, and the key takeaway from their experiences is that a simple addition of a team can scale a business to greater heights. While these brands may not be agencies, it’s good to see that implementing design operations can do wonders in practice.

Wrapping things up

Design ops can administer the flow and quality of work. They are typically in charge of setting proper, concise, and understandable systems for all types of designers such that they operate in sync with the essential criteria.

As a result, it becomes easier to hand down specific tasks to the team and ensure consistency with each output. Hence, they become key players in communication as they are responsible for translating the guidelines to the team.

Having them aboard can enhance the pace of work, management, and creativity, all while ensuring the work is uniform.

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader



The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Introduce your processes: If you’ve streamlined a particular process, share it. It could be the solution someone else is looking for.

Jump on trends and news: If there’s a hot topic or emerging trend, offer your unique perspective.

Share industry insights: Attended a webinar or podcast that offered valuable insights. Summarize the key takeaways and how they can be applied.

Share your successes: Write about strategies that have worked exceptionally well for you. Your audience will appreciate the proven advice. For example, I shared the process I used to help a former client rank for a keyword with over 2.2 million monthly searches.

Question outdated strategies: If you see a strategy that’s losing steam, suggest alternatives based on your experience and data.

5. Establish communication channels (How)

Once you know who your audience is and what they want to hear, the next step is figuring out how to reach them. Here’s how:

Choose the right platforms: You don’t need to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick two platforms where your audience hangs out and create content for that platform. For example, I’m active on LinkedIn and X because my target audience (SEOs, B2B SaaS, and marketers) is active on these platforms.

Repurpose content: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of content. Consider repurposing your content on Quora, Reddit, or even in webinars and podcasts. This increases your reach and reinforces your message.

Follow Your audience: Go where your audience goes. If they’re active on X, that’s where you should be posting. If they frequent industry webinars, consider becoming a guest on these webinars.

Daily vs. In-depth content: Balance is key. Use social media for daily tips and insights, and reserve your blog for more comprehensive guides and articles.

Network with influencers: Your audience is likely following other experts in the field. Engaging with these influencers puts your content in front of a like-minded audience. I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily engaging with content on X and LinkedIn. This is the best way to build a relationship so you’re not a complete stranger when you DM privately.

6. Think of thought leadership as part of your content marketing efforts

As with other content efforts, thought leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It thrives when woven into a cohesive content marketing strategy. By aligning individual authority with your brand, you amplify the credibility of both.

Think of it as top-of-the-funnel content to:

  • Build awareness about your brand

  • Highlight the problems you solve

  • Demonstrate expertise by platforming experts within the company who deliver solutions

Consider the user journey. An individual enters at the top through a social media post, podcast, or blog post. Intrigued, they want to learn more about you and either search your name on Google or social media. If they like what they see, they might visit your website, and if the information fits their needs, they move from passive readers to active prospects in your sales pipeline.

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips



How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

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The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Take back your ROI by owning your data



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Other brands can copy your style, tone and strategy — but they can’t copy your data.

Your data is your competitive advantage in an environment where enterprises are working to grab market share by designing can’t-miss, always-on customer experiences. Your marketing tech stack enables those experiences. 

Join ActionIQ and Snowplow to learn the value of composing your stack – decoupling the data collection and activation layers to drive more intelligent targeting.

Register and attend “Maximizing Marketing ROI With a Composable Stack: Separating Reality from Fallacy,” presented by Snowplow and ActionIQ.

Click here to view more MarTech webinars.

About the author

Cynthia RamsaranCynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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