User Experience Magazine: Volume 6, Issue 2, 2007
Volume 6, Issue 2, 2007
Feature Articles: The Business of Usability
Feature Articles: The Business of Usability
An effective user experience (UX) strategy is aligned with the business strategy of your company, whether you are a software company or using software to support your business. UX professionals must therefore support and help make companies successful, with our own appropriate, achievable and, ideally, measurable goals.
This article defines the why, what, how, who and when of a UX strategy and how it relates to business goals. We describe steps to capture business goals, and whether you will evolve a strategy over time or develop one outright. We then describe techniques to help derive user experience goals from business goals. We encourage UX practitioners to set their own success metrics, and offer examples. The strategy must also include how the UX team will work together and work with stakeholders.
Letting business goals drive the UX strategy makes our work more usable for the executives who must assess the value of numerous projects across the organization. Taking a business view of user experience activities allows us to “sit at the executive table” and demonstrate the broad value of our activities.
Classical ROI arguments provide the user experience professional with a good feeling inside, but are generally not particularly persuasive with executives or useful justifying the existence and growth of a usability program. A more strategic argument demonstrates to executives the direct contribution user experience can make to the bottom line, an argument that connects what user experience professionals do with what the business wants to accomplish
This article presents two case studies in which user experience improvements translated clearly into business impact. The first was for La Quinta, a limited service hotel chain whose website management team sought to understand site visitors’ behavior and to identify opportunities to increase brand loyalty and online bookings. An online survey with click-stream data for a large sample established baseline metrics and obtained qualitative feedback from current site visitors, identifying potential areas for improvement. The same survey followed the launch of the new site. User experience metrics, such as satisfaction, success, and likelihood to return to the site, showed significant improvement. Most important to La Quinta was the 83% increase in year-over-year revenue, compared to branded website growth within the industry of 33% for the same time period.
The American Heart Association (AHA) is a leading non-profit institution for heart disease and stroke. AHA management was concerned about the percentage of site visitors who entered the online donation section of the site but did not complete the donation process. A large-sample survey with click-stream data identified the most problematic areas of the online donation process and the profile of potential online donors. Lab-based usability studies validated design and functional changes suggested by the online research. Following the launch of the redesigned site, the AHA saw a 60% year-over-year increase in online donations, increased number of monthly donors, increased average gift per donor, and improved visitor satisfaction.
Introducing new technology into new markets can be problematic if that technology does not fit the expectations and behaviors of the new user group. This research explored the issues with expanding the use of automatic teller machines (ATMs) in China. A collaborative exploration was carried out using multiple research methods. This research highlighted key areas which could have resulted in poor use and acceptance of the ATM in China. Carrying out this research before release allowed these issues to be identified and redesigns evaluated before the release of the product.
Where is the Internet going? The next big thing—the "next generation" of the Web—may well be the Semantic Web. In this new Web, computers will share and interpret data on our behalf, and richer context information will be available to support user tasks and experiences. Will this make things better for typical users? That may depend on us! The "grand challenges" of user interaction are now being actively discussed within the Semantic Web community, and very few usability people are even aware of the conversation. Can we respond to the demand for usability involvement, and make a difference during this formative time?
Editor's Note by Aaron Marcus, Editor in Chief and Rich Gunther, Guest Editor