It’s no secret that I love all things related to usability and user experience design. I strongly advocate the use of usability testing for all organizations in their efforts to improve their products and services; in addition, I think organizations greatly benefit from having at least one staff member who is dedicated to improving user experience. Put simply, any organization that cares about its quality of customer service should care equally about user experience design (UXD), which includes usability testing.
With that being said, I often think about the return on investment (ROI) of implementing UXD methods and practices within organizations. Of course, I’ll always argue that UXD has a high ROI for any organization, provided that the organization thoroughly researches their user groups and their products/services prior to any new designs or redesigns, and prior to performing any usability tests.
But how can I, or any UXer, prove this high ROI to the dubious organizations out there? The simple way to calculate ROI is to divide the benefit (or return) of an investment by the cost of the investment. So, with this calculation in mind, the issue is really about how determining the benefit(s) and cost(s) of implementing UXD practices within an organization. The costs seem more straightforward: the actual price of performing usability tests, user surveys, redesigning a website, et cetera are good examples (whether these tests and designs are performed in-house or are contracted out to a separate company). Determining the benefits is trickier and more subjective, primarily because these benefits may not be immediately apparent to the organization. Higher traffic on the organization’s website is an obvious and more tangible benefit, but there are some benefits that cannot be easily and quickly determined via statistics/metrics (e.g., changing users’ attitudes and feelings toward the company from negative to positive).
So how do UXers prove the more subtle and gradually-apparent benefits of their work? Is it even possible? Please share your thoughts here. I’m very curious!