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A Business Case for Usability

by David Travis

Published October 1, 2007. Copyright © 2007 David Travis. All rights reserved. Published at websitetips.com with permission.

Until usability gets embedded in the processes of your company, you'll probably find you need to justify the investment. Fortunately, usability initiatives deliver a major return on investment: it's not unusual for usability projects to return benefits of 5-10 times their cost in the first year alone.

The key benefits of usability are:

Higher Revenues Through Increased Sales

Because usability initiatives focus on customer goals, they increase both online and offline sales.

Usability boosts online sales in the following ways.

If you make physical products or sell a service, usability boosts offline sales too.

Increased User Efficiency

People use products and web sites to achieve a goal and then to get on with their life. Few people want to spend their day navigating your web site for buried content. Nowhere is this more relevant than with company intranets. Jakob Nielsen has estimated that improving intranet usability would save the world economy $1.3 trillion per year.

Companies benefit from easier to use systems, like intranets, in the following ways.

“The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who spend a great deal of time trying to save money, and those who spend a great deal of money trying to save time.”
— Peter Cochrane.

This aphorism illustrates that improved efficiency also benefits e-commerce sites and physical products.

Reduced Development Costs

With any new product or web site, development costs are always responsible for the biggest slice of the cake. Usability initiatives reduce development costs considerably, because:

Reduced Support Costs

Companies benefit from reduced support and maintenance costs in the following ways:

How to Apply This to Your Own Situation

Although we don't recommend you use cost-benefit arguments as your only method of persuading managers about usability they nevertheless have their place. Cherry-pick the items from this article that are most relevant to your situation. Then use them to create a business case for usability within your own company. Use it as a framework for an internal presentation or to persuade your boss that an investment in usability makes business sense.

About the Author

This article was written by Dr. David Travis. David works for Userfocus, a usability consulting and usability training company that helps organizations reduce costs and increase profits by making stuff easier to use.

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