Usability and ROI

March 6th, 2007

Interesting (and short) podcast on usability and ROI. It’s common for clients to ask for figures that quantify the improvements they will see if they spend their budget on a user-centred solution. But usability simply doesn’t work that way. This podcast offers some great defensive arguments for me to keep up my sleeve. My notes follow:

Usability consistently produces positive outcomes, but how much influence can an interface have on ROI? Can a great interface justify its expense?

Usability research is limited in its ability to predict ROI because there are too many variables, leaving decision makers skeptical of the benefits. Jakob Nielson:

early gathered usability data is 10x more effective than late gathered data; It is 100x cheaper to make a change before project code has been written then after

Different units

ROI and usability are measured in fundamentally different units, and cannot be compared [this the most important thing to remember]:

  • ROI is measured in money
  • usability is measured in terms of increased use, more efficient use, and higher user satisfaction

The consumer has to be the centre of any business model because without them, there would be no business. Research states 83% would likely leave a website which required too many clicks to find what they were looking for [how many is too many? What are the other 17% doing still on the site?!]

Intranet example: a user centred redesign led to:

  • increase in productivity
  • decrease in support calls
  • greater job satisfaction for some users
  • reduced training time
  • …all saving money

Maximising benefits

To maximise potential benefits:

  • projects should consider usability at the outset [a no-brainer]
  • test extensively
  • ensure business objectives are maintained

There is a direct correlation between the usability of sites and customer satisfaction levels – especially with continually increasing user sophistication and expectation levels. Users encountering a poorly usable site will vote with their feet.

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