The business case for usability
The benefits of usability engineering extend beyond improving
the user interface and end user productivity: its beneficiaries
include not only end users but also developers and their companies.
User centred design can reduce software and e-commerce costs (including
development, support, training, documentation and maintenance costs),
shorten development time and improve marketability.
Good usability leads to satisfied, purchasing and returning customers
- A user-centered approach raised
customer satisfaction with 40% (Gartner, 1992). End users/customers
are more satisfied when a system offers relevant services that
match their needs and expectations.
- Online customers spend most
of the time on sites with high usability (Nielsen, 1998).A majority
of customers are loyal only to a few brands (1-3) and buy repeatedly
on these sites (A.T. Kearney, 2000). Satisfied customers lead
to increased sales for both e-commerce shopping sites as well
as for software products. Satisfied customers stay longer on sites
and consume more.
- Almost 50 % of users do not
come back if they found it hard to find relevant information on
the web site (Forrester research, 1999). Satisfied customers are
also more likely to become returning customers.
Bad usability leads to angry customers and loss in sales
- 82% of users attempted to purchase
but gave up as a result of poor design and usability (A.T. Kearney,
2001). That's one fifth of every customer trying to purchase.
Imagine your local shopping mall: only 20% of the customers can
find the checkout and the rest give up and drive home.
- 43% of purchase attempts failed
(Creative Good, 2000) and 35% in another similar study (User Interface
- 62% of people shopping on the
Internet gave up their efforts on finding the merchandise they
are looking for (Zona Research, 1999)
- Research across all sites showed
that visitors couldn't find what they are looking for as often
as 60% of the time (Forrester and Jupiter, 2000)
- 50% of potential sales were
lost on the Internet because of the users not finding the information
they needed (Forrester Research, 1998)
The results for e-commerce sites are devastating, and lost sales
due to bad design and poor usability represented a $3.8 billion
loss in year 2000 sales only (A.T. Kearney, 2001).
Conversion rate: measure purchases, not traffic
The best measure of a site's effectiveness is the site's "conversion
rate". This metric refers to a site's ability to "convert"
visitors to buyers. For example, a site with three purchases for
every hundred visits will have a conversion rate of 3%.
Consider a site with a conversion rate of 1.8% and annual revenues
of $100 million. Assume that the sites customer base is growing
25% annually as more customers come online. With a constant conversion
rate of 1.8%, revenues will be $100 million this year, $125 million
next year and $156 million in two years.
By raising the conversion rate to 2.7% (a modest increase, far
below the industry leaders) through a user-centered redesign the
revenues will increase $50 million this year, $62.5 million next
year and $78 million in two years (Creative Good, 2000)!
It is not unusual that a user-centered approach doubles the conversion
rate and revenues (Nielsen 1999).
10% of Fortune 1000 sites should be torn down because their usability
is so poor they are hurting the company's brand (Forrester research,
1998). Bad usability causes a bad user experience. A bad user experience
influences the experience of the brand.
If a site is frustrating and annoying, that's how visitors see
the brand. Also, people who have had a bad experience with a site
typically tell 10 others. An investment in user experience is certainly
an investment in the brand.
Reduced costs for development and maintenance
- If the cost of making design
changes is 1x during the user-centered design phase the same thing
would cost 10x as much during the development phase and 100x as
much after product release (Mayhew & Bias, 1994)
- American Airlines reduced development
costs by 60-90% by making corrections in design phase (Mayhew
& Bias, 1994).
- Usability techniques allowed
a high tech company to reduce the time spent on tedious development
tasks by 40%; at another company, usability techniques helped
cut development time by 33-50% (Forrester, 1998).
- 80% of all software lifecycle
costs occur during the maintenance phase (Mayhew & Bias, 1994).
- Most maintenance costs are associated
with "unmet or unforeseen" user requirements and
other usability problems (Pressman, 1992)
- A major computer company spent
$68,000 on usability work to improve a system that was used by
over 100,000 people. The resulting productivity improvement saved
the company $6,800,000, which is a cost-benefit ratio of $1: $100
(Mayhew & Bias, 1994).
- Poor usability on corporate
intranets can lead to poor employee productivity; investments
in making intranets easier to use can pay off by a factor of 10
or more, especially at large companies (CIO Business Web Magazine,
- Other productivity gains may
be that less people can do the same job as many. One company saw
its data-entry staff decrease by a third after usability improvements
of an internal system (Mayhew & Bias, 1994).
Although efficiency is not always the key issue in the usage of
the system it is often important. It is more productive and efficient
if a system is designed to support how users prefer to work and
is guided by usability principles for efficiency. Productivity improvements
have the largest impact on work supporting systems.
Reduced costs for training
- End-user training for a usability-engineered
internal system was one hour compared to a full week of training
for a similar system that had no usability work. As a result of
usability improvements at AT&T, the company saved $2,500,000
in training expenses (Mayhew & Bias, 1994).
Usable systems are easier more intuitive and require less training.
Every hour cut down on training is one hour more of productive work
and one hour less to pay an instructor.