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Achieving Business ROI with Interaction and Website Design

Can interactive website design really impact your business return-on-investment? Since we still field this question, it makes sense to discuss it further. Not surprisingly, we believe it does. The experts like Jakob Nielsen, Edward Tufte, and Human Factors International as well as newer big thinkers like the folks at Boxes and Arrows, the Interaction Design Association, Seth Godin, and the crew at 37 signals agree as well.

Just The Facts

Short of presenting a research tome, here are the basic facts: 5% of your interactive features get used 95% of the time1. If your main brand-building or revenue-generating features aren't in the top 5% and are buried to even some segment of your users, a redesign to solve those issues may have just paid for itself. It's not always that easy, but we've seen it too often to ignore the basics as a starting point. Perhaps you really don't need some of the features in the 95% bucket after all? Steve Jobs built a very substantial business stripping functionality down to the elegant minimum. Apple may be the best example of ROI from product and interface design in history.

Still Not Convinced?

The arts have historically always been viewed skeptically as an investment so we expect doubt. But nothing is created that is devoid of design. So why not ensure that you are getting a quality starting point? Low-quality design is nearly as expensive as high-quality design in the short term. And the long term cost of inadequate design can be disasterous. Microsoft may be history's best example.

What Is Good Interaction Design?

Good interaction design is a combination of skills and disciplines. Good interaction design is somewhat subjective but is often described as "intuitive" and/or "engaging". While these perceptions are often true, at Envigna, good interaction design is measured by the end users of the interface and how they define success. For an example of testing and measurement, take a look at how much variation exists in online form validation. Choosing the right method for doing even simple functions online heavily influenced the outcome - and, by extension, your brand. A beautiful online experience that does not function well is a contradiction that users will see and feel.

There are many different types of online experiences, each with different users and therefore many different definitions of "good". Interfaces (websites, applications, etc.) catering to first-time audiences require massively different designs from systems used by expert uses such as professional securities traders. If the design principles were swapped between each of these types of interfaces, both user groups would be completely unsatisfied. Our design team has experience with both ends of the spectrum and enjoys finding the right solution for specific user communities where they can be defined and understood.

"Expert" interfaces often look needlessly complex and daunting to "non-experts". And "consumer" interfaces often look crudely simplistic to users who have a specific task to perform in a small period of time while requiring important peripheral data. Imagine the screen that a customer service representative (CSR) is looking at when you call to inquire about your electric bill. To service you well, the CSR needs to access what you wanted quickly but also needs to be able to know about outtages, billing history, account details, and perhaps promotions to offer to you. As a consumer, you might want all that info from their website in a self-service model — but probably not all at once the way the CSR needs to see it. Truly optimizing each interface is an art. One that creates strong business value over time.

What Do I Need To Know About Interaction Design?

Interaction design has become much more prevalent and accepted in software circles in the past decade, thankfully. Most mature organizations have begun to optimize the integration of "Agile" (or variations of it) software development practices with "Agile-friendly" design practices and methodologies. In order to understand how to integrate good interaction design, it may be important to know how the final product will be built and by whom. Your consultant, Envigna or your chosen provider, can help define roles, responsibilities, deliverables, format, and handoff points with external development teams if needed. Envigna also has the capabilities to own the entire process for seamless delivery.

At Envigna, we like to see great designs get executed, happy users, and happy, profitable clients. That is our mission and we hope to work with you to continue it.