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As part of my own User Experience (UX) effort to get the pulse of what you would like to read in this newsletter, I posted a request for topics on HFI Central and HFI Connect.

Arun Martin, from Bangalore, picked up the challenge. He was new to UX, but also a recent CUA graduate, having worked previously in tech support and tech writing. He sent the following:

My *assignment* is to: Offer user research methods as a bundled offering or as an individual offering to the customers. That's the easiest part. The toughest part is to prepare the cost benefit analysis of each user research method.

For example, company X approaches to engage us for a Contextual Interviews (CI) exercise for their product. How do we come up with a quote stating the CI will help the company X financially and also ensure decent profitability margins for my company?

What might be the components of each user research method to be looked into before we prepare a quote? I'm working at a UX design firm and a vast majority of our consulting work is about designing better UX experiences for websites.

These are very important questions. Imagine you were a new hire, asked to come up not only with marketing justifications, but also pricing and profit policies? Arun listed their planned offerings:

        • Card sorting
        • Individual interviews
        • Diary studies
        • Cultural probes
        • Contextual interviews (CI)
        • Online surveys
        • Focus groups

I guess I'm talking about the ROI of each user research method for each customer, but not sure how to get started. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I did see a ROI calculator on the HFI site, but not sure whether it applies to my question.

Now, I want to provide as much value in this UI Review possible. So, my first offering to you must be the signature line that Arun has placed at the bottom of each email

When God takes something away from your grasp, He is not punishing you. But He is merely emptying your hands, for you to receive something better.

This was an inspirational sentiment as I embarked on synthesizing my own 20 years of consulting under the leadership of Eric Schaffer at Human Factors International. I also benefited considerably from the advice of a former CUA course participant and now colleague, Michael Rawlins.

Here's my reply. I will follow it with a recent online publication on the value of "visualization". That's because this UI Design Newsletter actually presents the "BIG PICTURE" on selling your UX services.

We all need a BIG PICTURE in mind for UX services because it defines and confirms our own important role in keeping the wheels of commerce moving.

Here's what I wrote back to Arun.

Toyota Prius

My BIG PICTURE email to Arun

"Arun, hi,

"Regarding ROI in the context that you give here (see above) one must look at providing 'solutions' to the client. Thus, the sales strategy is to ask the client 'what constitutes success for your product?'

"Have the client carefully, deliberately, and in detail, visualize and describe the elements of success. Presumably, those elements include being better than their competition on:

  1. Identifying and targeting customers
  2. Learning customer needs
  3. Creating desirable products with features and benefits competitors fail
    to offer
    (Basically, 'eliminate the competition' by offering a unique, compelling
  4. Fulfilling follow-through for the client
  5. Excellent references and word of mouth
  6. Ability to sell on 'value' if the price cannot be as low as the competition
    (after all, Mercedes cars DO sell to the right people!)

"NOW, with your homework done (all the above), you can help define the risk to your client if they fail or do not succeed on EACH of the above goals.

"Some of the goals are interlocked with other goals. Other goals are independent. But... you can use market size (from industry figures) to estimate the sales potential for the expected market share your client would want. Given market share (e.g., 30%) of say a market size of 300 million Euros (or whatever), gives you .3 X 300 million or 90 million Euros as a goal.

"Now, using feedback from the client, estimate how each of the above elements contributes to the 90 million Euros goal.

"The Euro losses due to failure represent the risk to your client if they use inferior design and testing.

"Your company can 'guarantee' they will not fail (using your methods you list). Thus, hiring your company is like buying 'insurance'. <I hasten to add, this is metaphorical. Unless you purchase insurance from Lloyds of London!>

"Your usability services offer 'risk mitigation' to your client.

"The next step is to determine the cost of what you feel to be the 'best' package to guarantee success.

"This is done with daily/hourly billable work rates your company should have. Those rates should include the profit your company expects to make per hour or per day for the service. You can also add in a 'value added' amount to represent the overall expertise your company brings to the table. You can even consider 'what the market will bear'. Of course, you also have to consider what a competing design firm might bid for the same work.

"But that's how it's done.

"In the final analysis, your presentation can show what you expect the company to earn, IF their product meets market demands. Then, for each usability step, you can show what they stand to 'lose' in revenue if they fail.

"This links each step of your proposal to a specific loss of revenue that would be weighed against the cost of the services your company would perform. This is 'ROI'.

"A more detailed ROI analysis at the 'operational level' is available at this HFI link.

"I'm sending this to a friend, Michael Rawlins, who has managed usability groups at several companies. (He called me in to teach several HFI courses)."

Now for the picture of the BIG PICTURE

I had a "secret weapon". Several years ago, Michael (now President, Connecticut Usability Professionals Association and Adjunct Professor, Manchester Community College, Manchester CT) had shown me his approach to internal marketing of UX.

He had a spreadsheet that gave his estimate of the % "risk" represented by each stage of product development if UX were to be eliminated! (The source of my secret weapon.)

I asked Michael for a copy of his visualization so that Arun could benefit.

Here's a portion of his spreadsheet from one of Michael's BIG PICTURE presentations. (Well, purely a reading experience, but it's an easy enough read.)

But better yet, was his picture of the BIG PICTURE.

The power of Michael's concept (assigning percentages of risk mitigation) was so powerful, that I remembered it years later to apply it to Arun's marketing challenge.

What do you think about this visualization? Does it help you factor the simultaneous business issues of "Probability" and "Impact"? I think so.

Guess what? This type of chart (top right) has a name. It's called the "Scenario Matrix" as illustrated here.

Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing

A treasure-trove of visualization ideas

This and other visualization methods are categorized in the "Periodic Table of Visualization Methods" by Ralph Lengler and Martin Eppler. Check out their site because it's interactive. When you mouse-over an element in their table, you get a pop-up example of the visualization method (as below).

The authors approach communication as a visualization challenge for business as well as science and engineering. From their 2007 conference paper, Toward A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods for Management:

"A visualization method is a systematic, rule-based, external, permanent and graphic representation that depicts information in a way that is conducive to acquiring insights, developing an elaborate understanding, or communicating experiences."

As you see in the chart (above), their taxonomy of 100 methods provides these 6 clusters...

1. Data: quantitative in schematic form (e.g., the Scenario Matrix we already saw).

2. Information: to amplify understanding and cognition. Make it interactive when possible.

3. Concept: elaborate qualitative ideas, plans, and analyses.

4. Strategy: to formulate and communicate strategies in organizations.

5. Metaphor: convey insights about the information with metaphor.

6. Compound: combined formats in one visualization.

Summary: using pictures for the BIG PICTURE

By now you get the idea that a BIG PICTURE on a topic can be obtained from a supporting, explanatory picture (or visualization).

That is, our visual "comprehension" of a picture aids the psychological "comprehension" as well.

As evidence, recall the research described in our Dec 2009 UI Review "User Experience" meets "Beauty is Truth, Truth of Beauty". People accept the aesthetic experience as a measure of valid reasoning!

Here are some other sites offering inspiration and instruction in visualization

1) Thinkbase – topic mapping with node graphs. (Start typing a search topic and you'll see other goodies listed in the Search field.)

Let's return to our original topic: Arun's questions about UX Strategy.

How does Michael's visualization "resonate" with you?

For me, anyway, it presents the UX playing field. Insert all the elements of product development into Michael's chart, and you have mapped "the mine field" of business risk.

Which one do you want to step on? Take your pick.

Well, the rational observer would say "I don't want to risk anything – except maybe the Low Impact, Low Probability quadrant.

That's what it's all about. Seeing is believing.

The BIG PICTURE gets discussed when you have the little picture that gets it right.

Get the picture?

Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing
Schematic Drawing


Ralph Lengler and Martin J. Eppler (2007). Towards a periodic table of visualization methods for management. In GVE 2007: Graphics and Visualization in Engineering. Acta Press.

There are many additional resources on visualization. Some examples to get you started. Check Amazon, too.

Robert L. Harris (1999). Information Graphics: A Comprehensive Illustrated Reference. Oxford University Press.

Melanie Tory and Torstem Moller (2004) Rethinking visualization: A high-level taxonomy. In IEEE Symposium on Information Visualization INFOVIS 2004. 151-158. IEEE CS Press.

Message from the CEO, Dr. Eric Schaffer — The Pragmatic Ergonomist

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