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Resources: Usability in the Real World

Selling Usability

This is a collection of presentations, white papers and other resources on selling usability. Links are provided where they are available.

Publications and Web Sites

  • Computerworld ROI. Retrieved December 6, 2002, from http://www.computerworld.com/managementtopics/roi
    This bimonthly magazine focuses specifically on IT paybacks and provides examples of how companies achieve ROI.
  • Gunther, Rich, Janis, Jeff & Butler, Scott (2001). The UCD Decision Matrix. Material also presented at the UPA 2001 conference as a presentation titled The UCD decision tool. Retrieved December 10, 2002, from http://www.ovostudios.com/upa2001/
    This site provides study results helps usability professionals determine how they can be more effective at promoting usability. Study results depict how usability practitioners position tools and processes, what methods are most effective, how they communicate with internal and external customers, and what types of problems they face and their resolutions. You can also customize study results to compare your organization to others.
  • Benun, Ilise. The art of self-promotion. Retrieved December 13, 2002, from
    This site offers promotional tips, including articles and other Web resources. You can also sign up for the Quick Online Marketing Tips e-mail newsletter.
  • ROI of Usability: A Collection of Links
    Retrieved December 6, 2002, from Rashmi Sinha’s Web site:
    Rashmi Sinha maintains a list of links to articles and case studies that can help you calculate the economic impact of usability.
  • Does usability pay for itself? An entry from an FAQ on usability


  • Benun, Ilise (2002). Promoting yourself and usability: Which comes first? Powerpoint document
    Presented at the UPA 2002 conference.
    Ilise Benun provides tips for making connections both internally and externally, and on promoting usability itself.
  • Bias, Randolph (2001, September 19). Is your Web site usable? How do you know? Presentation for the 2002 UPA conference.
    Randolph Bias’ presentation has a section on performing cost-benefit analyses and provides some examples.
  • Braiterman, Jared, & Skidgel, John (2002). Why it worked: A case study of Shutterfly. Presented at Design Expo 2, CHI 2002. Retrieved December 10, 2002, from http://www.jaredresearch.com/why_it_worked.html
    The authors present an overview of the Shutterfly site redesign and the resulting ROI.
  • Braun, Kelly. Measuring usability ROI at eBay. Powerpoint document
    Presentated at the 2002 UPA conference.
    Kelly Braun’s presentation describes how eBay measured ROI for one of its redesigns.
  • Brooks, Douglas, Skinner, David & Finger, Richard (2002, October 10). Usability: Translating to dollars. Retrieved December 2, 20002, from the Usability Professional’s Association New York Chapter Web site: http://www.nycupa.org/past_events/bp-upa-2002-10-10-v3.ppt
    The presentation provides an overview of performing ROI analyses and identifies the organizational customers to whom usability professionals should sell. It also offers several detailed examples.
  • Grant, Joe. Selling usability. Retrieved December 2, 2002, from Gateway Chi Web site: http://www.acm.org/chapters/gatewaychi/presentations/selling_usability.ppt
    This presentation shows how Joe Grant uses sales techniques for promoting and selling usability.
  • Green, Kerrie (2001, May). Selling usability: You can make them love you. Delivered to the Society for Technical Communicators Austin usability SIG.
    Kerrie Green offers tips on pitching usability benefits to management Guidelines explain who to approach, how to communicate with them, how to set up a department, and how to implement a user-centered design (UCD) process.

White Papers

  • Nagy, Thomas, Jefferson, Theresa & Altorkistani, Jamal (1999). Selling proven methods for improving the usability of the Web: Experimental evidence of the benefits of metaphors for supporting heuristic evaluation. Retrieved December 2, 2002, from the George Washington University Web site: http://home.gwu.edu/~nagy/
    The authors explain how usability professionals can overcome barriers to change and acceptance through metaphorical reasoning. They suggest using persuasive metaphors in conjunction with statistics and metrics to sell usability.
  • Donahue, George, Weinshenk, Susan & Nowicki, Julie (1999, July). Usability is good business. Retrieved December 4, 2002, from http://www.weinschenk.com/knowledge/usability.pdf
    The authors use several case studies to illustrate methods for performing cost-benefit analyses. They also provide a helpful table outlining all the types of development organizations and the usability benefits most likely to affect them.
  • Meads, John & Stubbs, David (2000). Metrics for effective business-to-business Web sites. Received December 10, 2002, from Usability Architects, Inc.
    The authors present study results from evaluating business-to-business Web sites. The results provide information on site performance metrics, site manager metrics, and visitor metrics.

Journal/Periodical Articles and Reports

This is a UPA publicationMarcus, Aaron The ROI of Usability (Originally published in User Experience, Winter 2002)
This article outlines many different value propositions related to cost justification and provides a quick reference table of statistics and their related value propositions. It is also available as a PDF from the Aaron Marcus and Associates Web site

  • How can I show that usability engineering saves money? Usability.gov (Usability basics section). Retrieved December 2, 2002, from the National Cancer Institute Web site: http://www.usability.gov/basics/#saves_money
    The article provides a very basic walk-through of the methods for producing cost-benefit analyses.
  • Dykema, Evie Black, with Allen, Lisa, Sommer, Jess & Flemming, Greg (2001, August). The ROI of selling online. The Forrester Report. Retrieved December 2, 2002, from http://www.uk.cgey.com/services/crm/docs/roi_sell_online.pdf
    This article explains how current methods for quantifying ROI don’t work and provides a customizable spreadsheet that demonstrates the process for calculating organizational ROI.
  • Souza, Randy (2001, June). Get ROI from design. The Forrester Report. Retrieved December 4, 2002, from http://www.uk.cgey.com/services/crm/docs/roi__design.pdf
    Randy Souza explains that specific, measurable objectives and post-launch measurements are crucial for successfully achieving ROI goals. He also provides several examples aligning business and design initiatives, and prioritizing design projects relative to their ROI.
  • Nielsen, Jakob (2001, January 2). Usability Metrics. Useit.com: The Alertbox. Retrieved December 3, 2002, from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20010121.html
    Jakob Nielsen explains how metrics can be used to improve your methodology, to help assess the competition, and to motivate managers and executives. He also provides suggestions for gathering metrics and offers examples.
  • Bohmann, Kristoffer, (2000, July 14). Valuing usability programs. Retrieved December 4, 2002, from http://www.bohmann.dk/articles/valuing_usability_programs.html
    Kristoffer Bohmann provides detailed instructions for calculating the economic impact of a usability evaluation.
  • Serco Usability Services (2001). Justifying user-centered design: Calculating cost benefits. Cost-effective user-centered design. Retrieved December 5, 2002, from http://www.usability.serco.com/trump/methods/integration/costbenefits.htm
    Serco Usability Services poses questions to help usability professionals determine the cost-benefits of performing assessments. The questions, which relate to development-, sales-, use-, and support-related ROI, provide a good start for formulating usability metrics.
  • McGrath, George & Schneider, Anthony (1997, June/July). Measuring return on investment. Intranet Communicator. Retrieved December 4, 2002, from http://www.intrack.com/intranet/ireturn.shtml
    This article focuses on calculating the benefits of intranet ROI. It offers examples for linking intranet ROI to business issues of importance to senior management.
  • Mayor, Tracy (2000, May 1). Value made visible. CIO Magazine. Retrieved December 2, 2002, from http://www.cio.com/archive/050100_method.html
    Tracy Mayor offers brief snapshots of several different valuation methodologies, including applied information economics (AIE), balanced scorecard, customer index, economic value sourced (EVS), and portfolio management. Mayor supplies a framework for aligning IT functions and business strategy, and provides other research sources as well.
  • Donahue, George M (2001, January/February). Usability and the bottom line [Electronic version]. IEEE Software, 18, 1. Retrieved December 3, 2002, from http://www.computer.org/software/so2001/pdf/s1031.pdf
    George Donahue explains how determining the audience for an ROI analysis is crucial for calculating appropriate metrics. Donahue provides examples and highlights basic usability issues that impact businesses.
  • Rhodes, John (2001, October 24). A business case for usability. WebWord.com. Retrieved December 4, 2002, from http://www.webword.com/moving/businesscase.html
    John Rhodes offers a basic overview of usability business cases and provides industry statistics, potential risks, and general business benefits/ He also supplies a list of possible deliverables.
  • Eisenberg, Bryan. ROI marketing. Clickz Todaycolumn. Retrieved December 4, 2002, from http://www.clickz.com/sales/traffic/index.php/all
    Bryan Eisenberg’s column offers tips on customer conversions and retention. You can also look up articles in an archive.
  • Eisenberg, Bryan (2002, September 2). What should you measure? Clickz Today. Retrieved December 4, 2002, from http://www.clickz.com/sales/traffic/article.php/1471031
    Bryan Eisenberg offers shortcuts for defining ROI objectives. He defines the key metrics needed to calculate ROI for what he classifies as the four types of existing Web sites: e-commerce, content, lead-generation, and self-service.
  • Eisenberg, Bryan (2001, November 5). The most powerful secret of customer conversion. Clickz Today. Retrieved December 4, 2002, from http://www.clickz.com/sales/traffic/article.php/916101
    Bryan Eisenberg explains that repeat customer order rate is one of the best metrics to track and improve.
  • Black, Jane (2002, December 4). Usability is next to profitability. Business Week [Electronic version]. Retrieved December 9, 2002, from http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/dec2002/tc2002124_2181.htm This article maintains that companies are “getting it”— that usability is profitable. Jane Black provides significant figures from Oracle, Microsoft, and Dell Computer usability projects.


  • Trenner, Lesley & Bawa, Joanna (Eds., 1998). The Politics of Usability: A practical guide to designing usable systems in industry. New York: Springer-Verlag.
    This book focuses on the chief barriers to accepting usability: organizational culture and corporate politics. It also includes a chapter on making business cases (Buy on Amazon)
  • Bias, Randolph G. & Mayhew, Deborah J. (1994). Cost-Justifying Usability. San Francisco, Morgan Kaufmann.
    This collection of case studies provides usability professionals with practical, extensive methods for performing cost-benefit analyses. (Buy on Amazon)
  • Bawa, Joanna , Dorazio, Pat, Trenner, Lesley & Paul, Ray (Eds.). (2001, January 1). The usability business: Making the Web work. New York: Springer-Verlag.
    This work includes case studies and papers on selling and managing usability within organizations and client/agency relationships. (Buy on Amazon)
  • Plewa, Franklin J. & Friedlob, George T. (Contributor). (1996, April). Understanding return on investment (Finance fundamentals for nonfinancial managers series). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved December 6, 2002, from Halljobs.com:
    This book teaches ROI basics with charts, graphs, and examples drawn from actual companies. It also highlights the various forms of ROI, including GMROI (gross margin return on investment) and CMROI (contribution margin return on investment), and covers the DuPont system of financial control, ROI's relationship to return on equity (ROE), solvency ratios, and decentralized management. (Buy on Amazon)
  • Barnum, Carol M. & Dragga, Sam (Eds.). (2002). Usability testing and research. Boston: Allyn and Bacon/Longman Publishers.
    Part of the Allyn and Bacon series of works on technical communication, this comprehensive book on usability testing also features a section on selling the usability’s benefits. (Buy on Amazon)
  • Donoghue, Karen (2002, February 12). Built for use: Driving profitability through the user experience. McGraw-Hill.
    This book teaches you how to make strong business cases for usability that appeal to senior executives and marketing. It also provides examples and methods for incorporating user-centered design (UCD) into development. (Buy on Amazon)
  • Benun, Ilise (2001, January). Self-promotion online: Marketing your creative services using Web sites, e-mail, and digital portfolios. North Light Books.
    Ilise Benun’s book provides basic examples on self-promotion techniques for the Web. (Buy on Amazon)


This collection of resources for selling usability was gathered and annotated by Kerrie Green in spring 2003. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

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