We get it. We know that a good UX is good for the company. I recently observed some user testing and at the end of the user journey two of the participants smiled and said something like "I've have mixed/bad experiences with [Company X] before but this makes me feel good about them." That sentiment is worth money for the company.

But, in a large company (think > 50,000 of employees) it can be a long way from UX design to delivery of an interface and the small things that contribute to great UX are often the first things to be sacrificed on the alter of deadlines and costs. But we know that smiling customers are valuable to the company.

I'd be really interested to hear how people have had business cases built to support the delivery of a quality experience in large companies. How do we put a value on a smile?

How can business cases be built to support the delivery of a good UX based on the emotional responses of customers, not just conversion rates?

Update/further explanation: If you design a UX and the developers say "If you want it like that it'll cost an extra £20,000 and take a week longer" (they're probably exaggerating) it needs a solid argument to rebuff it. How, in a corporate setting, do we put good UX design on a strong enough footing that it can stand up for itself in these sort of discussions? (We can't rely on everyone just understanding the value of good UX)

  • Please ask a more specific question. This is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum, so the idea is that you ask a question that can be answered more or less "correctly". At the moment you're really just asking for various opinions, of which none will be more correct than the other. See the faq for more on what determines a good question: ux.stackexchange.com/faq
    – Rahul
    May 19, 2011 at 11:07
  • I've clarified the question.
    – edeverett
    May 19, 2011 at 11:15
  • I think you should asking the marketing team in the company about that exact same question. They seem to do a pretty good job of delivering business cases without the same amount of scrutiny about the ROI...
    – Michael Lai
    Jul 3, 2014 at 4:07

5 Answers 5


If I understand the question correctly, User Stories may offer a partial solution.

If users stories are written with acceptance criteria that includes UX specific items, then not meeting them must be discussed. Both business and QA would need to be convinced, and agree, that not meeting a specific acceptance criteria is Ok for the current release.

It's much harder to do with Use Cases, since specific UX things may be considered design by many analysts/teams, and as such, can't be included.

  • Thanks for the answer. During the conversations where "business and QA ... agree, that not meeting a specific acceptance criteria is Ok for the current release" - when the practicalities and costs of delivering an interface are being discussed - how can we put a value on a good user experience so when developers say "It'll cost £YYYY to do it that way" we can "It's worth £XXXX" and so business can decide what to include based on factors they understand.
    – edeverett
    May 19, 2011 at 16:38
  • User Stories might help somewhat in communicating the intended user experience and so get better buy in. But the developers say "if you want it like that it'll cost an extra £XXXX and take two days longer" it needs a more solid argument (unless everyone is UX enlightened).
    – edeverett
    May 19, 2011 at 18:11

Every satisfied customer provides two concrete benefits to a company: advocacy and decreased support costs. When UX isn't a consideration, advocacy for your business will likely go down, and support costs will go up.

But beyond that every company lives and dies the same way: one customer at a time. If a company with >50,000 or whatever employees can't see that, they're on the decline. What I'm saying is that every little interaction adds up, and the business case for good UX in small scopes scales up.

If you want something more concrete, Jared Spool tells a good story about a minor change in UI design that made a difference of millions in revenue. It's worth digging up if you need numbers to wake someone up.

  • Thanks for the reply. I agree entirely with the sentiment and understand the small things can have big effects. UI changes that increase conversion rates are well understood and there is budget for things like multivariate testing which delivers concrete immediate returns - all stakeholders can easily understand this. I'm really after pointers to how business cases can be built around the harder to measure elements of the UX - things like if a customer in impressed with the website they'll be more likely to come back and buy again or recommend it to their friends.
    – edeverett
    May 19, 2011 at 16:48

The question is still a bit vague and broad, but I'll throw in my 2c for your question.

First of all I need to pick on a couple of the assumptions you make in your question.

1) The UX isn't just some sort of eye candy or extra bling you can wrap around your product to get a last minute enhancement.  One need to keep a continous focus on UX to achieve a true value and the UX work start as soon as the initial phases starts.
2) Subjective satisfaction is just a little part of the overall UX.  Other UX-measures might be just as important.
3) The UX work needs to be fully supported by the leadership. This might be a challenge, not because the leadership doesn't agree, but because they lack the knowledge.  I read your question as if it is this point you need some input on, and that your question "how can we put a value on a smile" really is "how can we convince the right people to focus on UX".

The key here is that the "value of the smile" should be defined by the people who are concerned about the general value of the product/company.

The leadership/stakeholders/investors must take a stand on the quality aspect, and in our case the UX criterias in particular.  What is an acceptable user satisfaction ratio?  20%, 50% or 90%?  This is a measurable goal you can work towards, and you can easily tell if the product is fulfilling the initial UX criterias that were established.

Some variant of the GQM-method (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GQM) can be used as an approach for this.  GQM (goal-question-metric) is a top-down goal-driven method for developing and maintaining a meaningful metrics program.  (See details here: https://goldpractice.thedacs.com/practices/gqm/).  This will help you to establish the goals and metrics you need in an understandable way.

I would also like to point out that Tom Gilb and his son Kai Gilb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Gilb) have done a lot of good work on this area. Take a look at the issues they present at their blog, http://www.gilb.com/Blog.

I've added a few more thoughts.

The statement I get hung up on, is the hypothetical developer quote "If you want it like that, it'll cost an extra £20,000 and take a week longer"...

The clue is that in a true ux-friendly process, this will not happen. In a true ux-friendly process you don't have a a secondary solution to compare against. Everyone works towards the optimal solution. The cost and schedule are important aspects of the process, obviously. But within the given budget and deadline, everybody should work towards the best solution and the comparison to a cheaper alternative shouldn't be an issue at all.

If the developers are the reluctant link in your organization, then bring them to a user test. That is usually an eye opener for most people.

  • Thanks for the answer. The question is still vague because I now think I'm running into the limits of my understanding of multi-national corporate business practises. In this case the bosses are fully supportive but there's a long journey through various layers of management, accounting, systems integration and off-shore development where compromises need to be made but who all basically measure things in money. I guess I'm looking for advice on how I can work with my bosses to put this the value of UX on a more solid footing that can be carry it through this journey.
    – edeverett
    May 23, 2011 at 22:01
  • @edeverett, I see. Take a closer look at the Gilbs work. The core in their approach is to establish a business value to the UX work. May 23, 2011 at 22:05
  • ørn I definately will - thanks for the links. Most UX conversations are framed by people working in start-ups or agencies (where I've been previously), but these are very different settings to big, established, slower companies. I guess I also have to understand more about business.
    – edeverett
    May 23, 2011 at 22:19
  • @edeverett, I've added a few more thoughts... May 24, 2011 at 7:18

I think that you may be thinking about Service Design which is the practice of designing the entire service experience of a user to a company, from right down the the counter in the shop where they purchase a product, to making a telephone call about a complaint. All of this has to be designed to fit the company's aim in the user's experience.


  • Thanks for the link, but that's not quite what I'm meaning. It's not the act of designing I'm interested in but more how value can be put on a good UX before it has been delivered.
    – edeverett
    May 20, 2011 at 8:54

It can certainly be hard to put value on a smile. Smiles are not as easy to measure as conversion rates, and their relationship to business results isn't completely clear. But it's not hard to understand that a happy loyal customer is worth good money to a business.

For a measurement instrument for hedonic qualities I've used Hassenzahl's Attrakdiff and got positive feedback from the test participants and surprisingly clear and consistent results. It gives you measurable quantities you can track and compare with competitors' products on pragmatic qualities (ease of use and effectivity), perceived attractiveness and the extent to which a product is conceived as stimulating or innovative.

For measuring customer loyalty and word-of-mouth I'd be inclined to start with a simple net promoter score and work from there.

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