Friday, May 04, 2007

Myths and Measurements: Evaluating the ROI of Design

Developing software without designing it first ...

"There’s a dirty little secret that nobody in the design community wants you to know: it’s actually possible to build and ship a software product…without designing it first! There. I said it. Now my time is short; even as I type, assassins with square-toed shoes and goatees are stalking my whereabouts.

But just because you can construct software products without designing them first, why on earth would anybody want to?

The analogies are endless: you wouldn’t point a construction crew to an open lot and tell them to build a structure without giving them blueprints, would you? You wouldn’t ask a doctor to re-set a broken bone without looking at an x-ray; you wouldn’t storm the beaches of Normandy without a battle strategy and a good map; you wouldn’t even don your shoes before putting on your socks.

Executives chuckle warmly at these analogies, and agree wholeheartedly that yes, it’s always best to design products—the things that their companies sell for money—before building them and putting them in the hands of customers. Yet even though business decision-makers of all stripes acknowledge the merits of design, it’s the designers and usability professionals who are the first to get jettisoned from a project plan when the going gets rough.

The top two reasons executives usually cite when they decide to short-change the design process are a Shortage of Time and a Lack of Money. However, companies have much more time and money to lose by not investing in design.

Several myths lead to the misperception that it’s easier and cheaper to do without design. I’ll walk through some below, then describe some ways to measure the design’s return on investment within your own organization.

Four myths
If we just hire more programmers, we can get to market sooner.

Design takes too long.

We need to ship a new product version every month/quarter/year/lunar eclipse."    (Continued via uiGarden)    [Usability Resources]

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