Step 2. Develop your indicators

Intended Learning outcomes

This page is designed to help you:

  • Understand what indicators are and how they differ from outputs and outcomes

  • Prioritise the indicators that are most important to your impact assessment

  • Start mapping indicators to help you measure change

You might already know what you want to measure, based on the outcomes you have mapped. However, it’s important to think about what you want to measure and how you will do this. What indicators will help you know if a change has occurred?

What is an indicator?

An indicator is information that allows us to measure whether you are achieving your desired outcomes. They show whether the outcome has happened or not. When you look at your Change Pathway, the outcome itself might not be what you measure but you might measure something that indicates that the change has taken place. Each outcome could have one or more indicators associated with it.

A good question to ask yourself when thinking about setting indicators is: what kind of ‘proof’ do you want to have before you can claim something has changed as a consequence of your activities?

Explainer - indicators vs. outputs

Indicators can often be confused with outputs, because we are talking about something that is measurable. Outputs are the quantifiable activities of your project. You can see them as the summary of what happened in numbers. Indicators help you to understand and measure if you are achieving your outcomes.

Indicators can be measured in the short-term, medium-term or long-term, and you might also emerge with indicators for your impact.

Subjective and objective indicators

There are two types of indicators. Ideally, you will achieve a balance of objective and subjective indicators. For example, a museum has more visitors to its digital site (objective) but visitors don’t feel that they connect personally to the theme (subjective).

Objective indicators represent facts - for example, income or visits to a museum.

Some examples include:

  • Number of researchers who would recommend Europeana Pro to a colleague or friend (short - long term, quantitative)

  • Number of times Europeana resources are referenced in published research since 2010 (long term, quantitative)

Subjective indicators represent opinions or perceptions - for example, enjoyment or quality of life. 

Such as:

  • Researchers in the Europeana Research Community who report that access to Europeana enables them to complete high quality research (short and/or long term, qualitative)

  • Pupils are more active or enthusiastic after working with an immersive heritage application (short term, qualitative)


It can be tempting to focus on data that are convenient and easily available rather than on what tells the most important story. Avoid letting convenience determine what you measure.

Short quiz - test what you know about subjective and objective indicators

Are the following indicators objective or subjective?

Subjective. The result could be interpreted differently as it is not a clear ‘fact’.

Objective. This is data that we can gather through analytics and that needs no interpretation.

Objective. This is data that we can gather through analytics and that needs no interpretation.

Subjective. The definition of ‘up to date’ is subjective, and so too is the decision of what should be in a national strategy.

Subjective. This is reported on subjectively, even if it can be collected in a quantitative way.

Learn from existing indicators

There may not be one gold list of indicators for us to use, but this doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel. Standard indicators are commonly developed and used in cultural research and in other sectors, as well as in global cross-sector strategic initiatives such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Some may not be directly relevant for your work but it’s good practice to see if the data you collect can be comparable or benefit from following others' practices.

You might also want to look at literature, case studies, or similar work that other organisations similar to yours have done. This will help you to further focus on what still needs to be measured.

Add your indicators to your data collection plan

At the end of this step you will have identified the indicators that you’ll want to measure. Add these to the data collection plan and then move forward to choose the methods that will help you measure them.

Next steps