You’re Asking the Wrong Questions About the ROI of UX
What’s the UX currency within your organization?
Stop us if you’ve heard this one – someone, perhaps a manager or an executive or an investor, asks you to show them how user experience is directly tied to ROI and it went something like this:
“Well, for every dollar invested in UX there’s a return of-”
“Yeah yeah, but what KPIs or metrics do we have about our investment in UX?”
“I don’t know if we have them, but we’ve been benchmarking our products performance and have been able to show that user adoption is rising with each iteration and call center/help desk emails have decreased.”
“Great. But where’s the ROI? Where’s the numbers? What am I getting out of what I’m paying for?”
I’m guessing you weren’t able to satisfy their curiosity. To be honest, I am not at all surprised.
Asking the wrong question
I’m not surprised because I think that’s the wrong question to ask. Most organizations won’t be able to tell you how UX is directly tied to ROI and most likely won’t have anything in the works towards that goal. This is not unique to any organization that I’ve seen or worked in – this is simply the UX space.
Here’s the thing, though. The connection between ROI and UX has already been shown.
- In 2005, Bias wrote a giant book and a white paper on Cost-Justifying Usability. In this work, there are loads of examples and hard data linking the two.
- In 2005, Bevan gave us the white paper ‘Cost Benefits, Evidence, and Case Studies’ which showed a multitude of cases studies across industries of costs savings and the ROI impact of usability.
- Also in 2005, Susan Dray wrote a terrific paper about how UX is tied to product value.
- In 2008, Nielsen Norman Group wrote their first extensive report on the ROI of UX which is currently on the 4th edition.
- In 2010, HFI produced their cool video about the ROI of UX.
And of late, The Temkin Group gave us their massive report in 2016 linking experience to customer willingness to buy and then just recently they delivered their 15 CX Factoids linking experience to users doing business with that company.
These are just a few of the artifacts we have at our disposal to answer this question.
The fact is that we have been given many resources linking UX to ROI for the past 13 years, and yet, organizations still don’t have these at the ready and are not really pursuing that link within their companies. It’s time to ask why, and change the question.
Asking the right question
The question that needs to be asked is, “What is the UX currency within your organization, and how do you help your company consume that currency?”
What I mean by currency is NOT dollars and cents, but the thing that is of value to the organization. What has the UX research team done that has gained them the greatest currency for trading purposes?
Typical UX currencies I see within organizations are:
- Behavioral data
- Product direction insights
- Problem space insights
- Synthesis of the experience stack
- Process direction/command – User centered design / Design Thinking
- Data within cadence
- Getting you directionally correct with confidence
- Risk mitigation
- Design expertise
And at the end of the day, having currency within an organization allows UX leaders and change agents to increase influence, have greater impact, earn more authority and decision rights, increase budget, and be granted headcount.
So the next time the questions comes up about ROI of UX, don’t repeat the same old lines. Hone in on the UX currency that matters to them (and maybe send them a few of the links mentioned earlier).
Andrea is an applied social scientist, user experience researcher, and interactive technology designer with a background in engineering, software development, psychology, and organizational management. Her dissertation, current research, and practice is dedicated to examining how organizations can grow their UX capacity. Currently, Andrea is the VP of Customer Enablement at UserZoom where she is putting her 14+ years of UX experience to work helping companies excel.