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ROI and UX: the ‘piñata effect’

by Robert Schumacher , 28.09.2015

Let’s start by stating the obvious: no organization sets out to create a bad user experience (UX). Yet, poor user experiences frequently happen. Enter the Piñata Effect.

As many of us know about piñatas, they are filled with candy – and everyone wants the candy. Each boy or girl is blindfolded and given a baton, spun in a circle and told to strike the piñata. Sometimes we get a satisfying swing of the bat, hit a leg, and a few candies tumble to the floor. Sometimes the child gets really lucky and busts the belly and all the candy tumbles out. More often than not, the blindfold leads to a big whiff.

Imagine that the candy is the return on investment (ROI) we are expecting from the product, and the boys and girls swinging the bats are the product/service development team. If we remove the blindfold, our chances increase drastically. We need to remove the blindfold to hit the piñata. As little as possible should be left to chance. How do we do that in delivering great user experiences? We understand the users, their needs, and tasks through user research.

If we don’t set out to create poor experiences, why do poor experiences happen? Organizations that produce poor user experiences often deliver those experiences without deliberate attention to customers’ needs. Organizations that produce exceptional user experiences deliver those because of their hyper-focus on customers’ needs.

But why do teams keep the blindfold on? Well, there’s the obvious: arrogance that ‘we already know the users’, unwillingness to commit sufficient resources, lack of executive commitment, and the list goes on. In the context of creating user experiences, we know that user interface design is an intentional act. By that I mean that someone had to decide the features and functions and someone had to decide how to put them all together. These decisions are where there is often a breakdown; the breakdown is often a function of the organization and not the individual.If you’re not actively engaged in a systematic program of user research – reducing the risk and raising the probability of a direct hit, then you’re swinging blindfolded at the piñata. Sure, occasionally, you’ll hit it, but more often than not you’ll just whiff, wondering why you’re not getting the full ROI you’re expecting.

True customer- or user-focused organizations take off the blindfold. They will have long-term success with products in the market because they have an organization that values the user research needed to ensure successful product and service introduction and integration.

Robert Schumacher is Executive Vice President of User Experience at GfK.