The ROI of UX
Sean McGowanSeptember 06th, 20173 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
I’ve written quite a bit about the role UX plays in a digital platform’s success, namely that it is absolutely indispensable. I’ve supported my assertion with countless examples, counterexamples and case studies, citing apps and websites across every sector and market space.
But I’ve found that when I argue the worth of UX, it’s often best to cut through the marketing talk, drop the dramatics, and get right to the bottom line: how does this affect my company’s bottom line?
Our UX design agency is primarily B2B, so we’re usually working with high-level business execs—sometimes even C-suite. We need to speak their language, and that’s often the language of cold, hard numbers, with one key metric standing out: return of investment.
Quality user experience isn’t cheap, and it’s expected that company decision-makers ask where their investment is going, and exactly how it offers value. That’s what this article is for: a data-driven breakdown of where quality UX slashes costs and the true significance of that ROI.
Let’s get right to it. In the software development industry, the typical cost of an engineer is between $80-$120 per hour, with some agencies charging up to $200. It’s alarming how fast development hours can add up, especially when 50% of a developer’s time is spent fixing avoidable mistakes.
How does a project avoid these stalling errors? Proper UX design. At the end of the design process, UXers define clear, user-tested requirements for the engineers to build. These requirements help devs prioritize tasks, and efficiently implement the UX designer’s — and by extension, the user’s — vision.
And sure, you could ignore these mistakes during development, postponing their solutions until after launch—but the IEEE’s study on failed software found that fixing an error post-development costs over 100 times that of resolving it before project completion.
User Testing & Wireframing
When we lay out our design process to clients, we sometimes get a few eyebrow raises at our extensive user testing. As a top-ranking UX design agency, user testing permeates our design process, and many question how our incessant, repeated experiments translate into value.
In short, user testing validates the design choices made by the UX team, and confirms the success of their design strategy. For you, this means more satisfied users, and continued interaction with your platform. While that’s clearly a benefit, there are more directly measurable savings.
Take MacAfee’s ProtectionPilot software. After they made a committed investment to usability testing, they found a 90% reduction in help & support costs.
It goes further than just testing as well. When designers conducted rapid prototype testing, they were able to reduce clarification requests by 80%, again freeing up valuable time for the engineers. Forrester Research found an impressive 4x ROI when UX design companies crafted user personas.
We rely on a variety of key performance indicators to measure the success of a website, and many of these KPIs are directly tied to the quality of the user experience. In other words, invest in user experience, watch these KPIs increase, and watch your bottom line follow suit.
The most obvious of these is conversion rate, especially if you’re commissioning an eCommerce platform. UX design agencies like Codal have design processes tailored to eCommerce applications, as an overhauled user experience is one of the best ways to boost conversion rate.
Similarly, abandonment rate or bounce rate can be curtailed by improved user experience. The graphic above comes from a video by Dr. Susan Weinschenk, where she details the different metrics affected by UX. One of her most illuminating examples uses abandonment rate as the KPI most influenced by user experience.
So combining all of these UX returns, what’s our final number? UX pioneer Jakob Nielsen advises spending 10% of the budget for an 83% return. This seems to have resonating with the digital community: 11.5% of project budgets are spent on user experience design.
Some more sobering statistics: IEEE’s study on failed software found that project abandonment rate was a whopping 15%, and that of the twelve most common reasons for failure, three were related a faulty user experience.
The real bottom line? The effects of UX can be measured in dollar & cents. Make the right investment, and hire a UX design agency to ensure your platform yields the right return.