Background: Eventually in a hypothetical corporate enterprise environment that I refer to, people who 'pay' for the application never use the applications developed. The main consideration is always about cost cutting on how cheap the department can run in the short to medium term (forget about long term).

OT without extra pay is always a norm and rather expected so no need to discuss the cost saved due to time. Turnover is always high and I doubt better UX will help much.

Yes the management appreciates good CSS and styling but always prefer web app that looks like SAP / excel spreadsheet anytime of the day.

Giving the fact corporate is a cost center, how I can justify spending extra effort in UX aspect of the corporate applications. In addition, to what extent the effort for better UX should be? (e.g. hire external consultant, put another 1000 pages guidelines, hire a CSS/JS developer, create a department specially for UX - "another layer of bureaucracy")

Ref: http://www.michaelnygard.com/blog/2009/02/why_do_enterprise_applications.html

  • 1
    A google search of "UX ROI" will return quite a few results. They won't be tailored to your very specific hypothetical scenario, but, based on said scenario, I don't see them spending any money on UX. :)
    – DA01
    Aug 7, 2013 at 3:53

3 Answers 3


One of the biggest problem with putting an argument or proposal about UX to management is the lack of an objective baseline or benchmark. For example, people like to compare between similar software products, but don't take into account of the fact that they may be designed for different types of users operating in different environment under different organizations, etc... The fact is that you can only realistically determine the relative benefit of UX if you set some benchmarks for what you want to measure, with the caveat of not relying completely on the numbers. For example, you can start measuring how 'efficient' the users are at performing tasks, how 'satisfied' they are with the usability of the software or anything that is relevant to measure and track.

When this metric starts to drop then people will want to look at different ways to improve performance. Keeping in mind that the user interface is only part of the overall UX solution (there are things like improving training, business processes, resourcing, etc that may give you better ROI), you could argue for at least the same amount of proof for putting money into those other areas compared to doing something about the UX of the product.

The other thing to consider is that the strength of UX design is not dependent on the UX architect/designer, but the recognition/acceptance of the organization that this is an important consideration for the product or service. Again having something objective for comparison (e.g. the opposition or competitor spending time and effort on this, customer complaint about usability) is better than trying to drive this through some internal epiphany. From my experience the customer support tracking systems like ZenDesk, GetSatisfaction or UserVoice are good starting point for gathering the information you need to build a case.


You first have to prove that there are UX issues with their existing products, and get the time and resources to fix those, before you can justify the extra efforts to get it first-time-right on new projects.

Imagine that you can present a usability test report, that proves that x% of the users are confused over a certain highly valued feature, or they loose time with false attempts or even fail at it altogether. Image you can illustrate it further with a video compilation of their failed attempts...

If your employer doesn't give you the chance to try this once, or they don't care "as long as the client pays" then you might want to consider another employer.


Given your scenario, I would present an extreme case like the $300 million button to make my point. Make sure to read the back story too, as questions might occur. This is a specific example of what @michael-lai says, with which I happen to agree.

I think there is value in presenting a case where ROI dropped greatly because of bad design, and the above is a great example as it doesn't favour any specific visual design. SAP style apps can be great when implemented correctly, and CSS eye-candy can be unusable.

UX is not at all about JS/CSS, but more about building the right system for the right audience; also, an effective and efficient system. Making this point firmly—apart from being true—will sound more convincing and then some funding might start to flow. Depending on funding an external consultant or in-house UX might work best.

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