ROI is dead

Session Title

ROI is dead


Eric Reiss, FatDUX

Session Type: Presentation

The ROI is dead” is a 45-minute exploration of the five key economic arguments often used when pitching new clients, and why these consistently fail to convince. I also examine the sales arguments of associated service industries, such as advertising and architecture, and show how basic psychological triggers relate to the timeless wisdom of Goethe, Machiavelli, and Napoleon. It’s a combination of interactive demonstration and common-sense review, in a single, high-powered, bullet-point-free session.

Many interaction designers are not particularly adept sales people. Perhaps it is because they have listened intently to our industry’s leaders who tell us that ROI is a compelling argument when in reality it sucks. This is my conclusion after over two decades in business consulting and communication. If interaction designers can be convinced to discard the faulty logic found in most ROI cases and concentrate instead on the common-sense business benefits provided by our craft, they may surprise themselves with their newfound sales prowess.

Internally, there are nay-sayers on many project teams that consistently hinder interaction designers in getting their jobs done. Again, ROI is generally an inappropriate argument. These situations are often framed in political rather than economic terms. If we genuinely believe our work serves the greater good of the individual/the company/the world, we need stronger ammunition and must be willing to use it.

Interaction design is the means to an end — and we are instruments of social change!


Eric Reiss has been actively involved in the creation of menu-based programs, hypertext games, multimedia, and web projects for over 30 years. Following a long career as a copywriter for one of Europe’s leading business-to-business advertising agencies, he has worked almost exclusively with online communications since 2001.

In November, 2000, his book, Practical Information Architecture was published by Addison-Wesley. In 2002, it also became available in Japanese and Korean. He is co-instigator of the IA Slam and author of Web Dogma ’06.

Eric Reiss is a past President of the Information Architecture Institute, serves as Chair of the European Information Architecture Summit, EuroIA, and is on the Advisory Board of the Copenhagen Business School Department of Informatics. Reiss is also Professor of Usability and Design at the IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. And to pay the bills, Eric Reiss is CEO of the FatDUX Group, a user-experience design company with offices in Copenhagen, Hamburg, Los Angeles, and Zagreb.


  1. Posted September 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    This sounds like it could start as a lesson and develop into a full-blown rant. Don’t get me wrong, when it’s Eric doing the ranting, that’s a very good thing. I hope to learn a lot from this presentation and I hope to get some anti-ROI-ammunition for those endless yaddayaddayadda arguments.

  2. Posted September 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    If this is an evolution of his IA Summit talk at all, then it doesn’t need to be a rant. Eric will dazzle us with his delivery, to be sure, and change us with his lessons. It’ll be great!

  3. Posted September 22, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Thanks for the support. Yes, I will continue the IA Summit presentation, which hit a chord, is violently relevant, but can use refinement. One promise: I will start by making and selling Bloody Marys (which made me officially a bootlegger in Tennessee, so why not do it in Georgia, too?).

    BTW, “roi” is “king” in French. I’m surprised no one has ever picked up on the pun…”The ROI is dead”.

  4. Posted October 1, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I agree from a personal perspective that ROI is a weak point and that the obvious common sense arguments for IxD are more compelling. At the same time, it seems like a discussion of ROI will inevitably come up with biz stakeholders, so I hope you address how to steer away from that and focus on the more compelling reasoning.