If you have a conclusion, chances are you can find some research to support that conclusion. Or, if not, it should be fairly straightforward to design a research project that will tell you want you to hear. I am being slightly facetious and know that most people do not do this on purpose, however, it is easy to be fooled by unintentional research bias.

Reputable research firms will do everything possible to reduce bias in the sample and questions that are used. However, even the best designed research projects still have some level of bias. Since most organizations have limited research budgets, most research projects end up being imperfect.

To overcome this, I would suggest always seeking out a variety of different research sources before making a decision. If you are making changes to your Web site, look at your metrics and what similar Web sites are doing in addition to analyzing your usability research findings. Also, don't forget to think creatively. Don't be afraid to innovate. Research may be great at suggesting ways to tweak what you are doing, but it is not usually the source of great "Eureka" moments.

Yes, research is important. Just be cautious and don't take it at face value.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) had made significant improvements to their Web presence over the past few years. However, capsule they didn’t have any formal mechanisms in place to track the impact of those improvements on performance. As such, buy CIHR engaged Re-Think to develop a Web performance measurement framework. The project involved:

  • The development of a draft list of performance indicators for consultation with key internal stakeholders.
  • The development of a robust performance measurement framework that identified:
    • Objectives
    • Stakeholders
    • Activities
    • Outcomes and Indicators (including key indicators and supporting indicators)
    • Data Sources
  • Creation and documentation of a research and performance measurement dashboard to use for tracking performance and the creation of a baseline performance report using existing data.

This framework provided CIHR with a robust framework to measure the performance of its website and to benchmark improvements over time.