Does your boss tell you, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it?" One of the reasons usability doesn't mesh with business at some companies is that it can be difficult to quantify the benefits of good usability. In response, usability gurus have spilled barrels of virtual ink trying to transform usability's qualitative nature into something closer to Six Sigma. One hundred percent ROI on average, they trumpet!
I find these arguments don't survive examination. Face it, websites differ so much in their audiences, tasks and business models that it seems ridiculous to average out their usability ROI. Now, there are all kinds of metrics to quote related to usability, such as time on task, task completion rate, and user satisfaction. However, only rarely can these metrics can be generalized, or compared directly across product lines.
In addition, many companies (especially those where usability is new) are not interested in running careful studies and analysis that exclude all other factors. So often, a usability professional must contend with vectors like content updates, marketing spend and seasonal differences all contributing to a before / after analysis.
I have mixed feelings about usability ROI. If your higher-ups insist on you proving it, chances are they're already biased against funding usability. There's better return on your time by emphasizing qualitative benefits along with the numbers:
- Positive customer experiences strengthen your brand.
- Having a usability group helps sales and marketing promote products.
- Don't forget user experience: the overall delightful quality of the user's involvement with your company, offline and on, transcends narrow usability metrics.