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Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Second Edition by Peter Morville, Louis Rosenfeld

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Running the Numbers

OK, so here’s the big question: What is information architecture actually worth?

The best source of numbers is white papers created by such analyst firms as Forrester Research and The Gartner Group. These numbers often don’t focus on the ROI for information architecture per se, but do address similar or overlapping areas of practice (e.g., user experience) or a hot technology (e.g., portals) that may involve a specific architectural approach.

For intranets, most utilize an opportunity cost approach to assessing ROI, drawing on a technique that was popularized in the web design community by Jakob Nielsen.[48] Table 17-1 shows the basic calculation.

Table 17-1. ROI case for investing in the Sun intranet’s information architecture

Factor

Cost

Time lost due to a design-related problem (determined through user testing)

10 seconds/occurrence

Time lost over course of a year per employee (10 seconds/occurrence × 3 occurrences/day × 200 days/year)

6000 seconds (1.67 hours)/year

Cost per employee (e.g., $50/hour/employee, including benefits)

$83.33/employee

Number of employees that experience this problem

5,000

Total cost due to this design-related problem

$416,667/year

For example, if the design problem at hand is a confusing labeling system, and you feel confident that investing $150,000 will make it go away, then you can claim an ROI of 178% ($416,666 - $150,000 / $150,000). Not bad, especially if you consider that this particular design problem may be ...

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