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Monday, March 12

Do Government Agencies and Non-Profits Get ROI From Usability?

Jacob Nielsen

Although the gains don't fall into traditional profit columns, there are clear arguments for improving usability of non-commercial websites and intranets. In one example, a state agency could get an ROI of 22,000% by fixing a basic usability problem.

For commercial projects, the case for usability's return on investment (ROI) is clear:

  • On average, e-commerce sites double their sales by following e-commerce user experience guidelines.
  • Even sites that don't sell online can double the conversion rates for business goals such as getting leads or enticing subscribers to read their email newsletters.
  • Particularly bad sites (many B-to-B sites among them) can record even greater improvements in key performance indicators, such as those related to visitor counts, whitepaper downloads, webinar signups, or other stages of the lead pipeline.
  • Improving the usability of a company's intranet can save millions of dollars through increased employee productivity.
But what about non-commercial design projects? Are there arguments for having government agencies and non-profit organizations spend money on usability even when they don't earn it back in the traditional sense?

It therefore costs $35,000 to identify the 34 usability problems that will be fixed, or $1,063 per problem. The cost of an actual fix might be much more, but in our example, the cost is modest because all that's required is a bullet point rewrite. That is, the new text must be written, approved, and placed on the site. Let's say that all of this takes two hours, at a cost of $100 per hour, for an implementation cost of $200. The total cost to find and fix the usability problem therefore comes to $1,263. Because the improvement is worth $281,000, we conclude that the ROI is 22,249%.


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