Measuring Usability ROI For Government Websites

Jeff Sauro • September 4, 2013

On most commercial websites, success is counted through increased traffic, increased conversion rates and increased revenue.  If you can associate design changes to one of these key metrics, you can understand the return on investment for UX efforts.   Even if you can’t associate changes directly to conversions or revenue, metrics like the Net Promoter Score can be used as a proxy for revenue.  You can then estimate a return on investment by taking the realized gains divided by the cost of the research.  But when the purpose of your website is not to increase traffic or convert browsers to buyers, measuring the return on investment needs different metrics. State, local and other government websites are usually in the business of providing information or allowing “users” (usually taxpayers or residents) to accomplish transactions or providing some service online.  Supporting these online services requires developers, IT infrastructure, content curators, and scores of people ready to answer the phone at help desks, in person or via email. Before the web, many transactions were handled in person, by mail or over the phone.  For example, if you wanted to incorporate a business with your state, you’d needed to obtain the necessary paperwork, fill out the forms, and then mail them or deliver them in person.  The forms would then go down the line of clerks who would key that information into the system.  This process was expensive, slow and prone to errors.  Now, many of these municipal services are online. You can even renew your driver’s license online now, circumventing the need for the much maligned DMV (something I did this year). Getting functionality online was a major step for government sites. Now that the functionality exists, the problem is not utility, but usability. If users cannot find or cannot use a feature online, does it really matter that it exists? [Article]

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