By: Jonathan Knopf
Today’s last click technology model of advertising has become the bane of the users. They are flooded with various types of schemes to convince them to click on an advertisement in hopes of becoming the 1% of traffic that generates profit. If companies play their numbers correctly and have a large amount of capital to invest in high volume synthetic traffic, they will most likely see monetary results, but at what cost? Those tactics don’t give rise to the type of viral media that makes a brand demanded; positive user experiences do just that.
Earned media is the term used to describe positive reviews, high net promoter scores (NPS), and the word of mouth buzz that seems to skyrocket companies into success. To earn that media, you need to create a good user experience by researching the motivations and trends of your target audience. User Experience (UX) research finds great value in the SMART approach for ROI by emphasizing the importance of the user while defining Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Track-able goals. Lets illustrate a breakdown of how this methodology works well for UX with examples from previous studies and best practices.
Specifying a target area of improvement allows businesses to spend their resources efficiently by clearly defining expectations and goals. This clarification should answer the 5 W’s and provide a framework for documenting the starting point of their UX research.
o   What’s expected?
o   Why is it important?
o   Who’s involved?
o   Where is it going happen?
o   Which attributes are important?
Measurable and concrete criteria allow businesses to discover and delineate areas for improvement and set benchmarks to track the effects of modifications. If it’s not measurable, it’s not possible to know whether a team is making progress towards successful completion. 5 H-questions that UX researchers could ask include:
o   How much will it cost?
How many participants do we need?
o   How will I know when it is accomplished?
o   How will we capture the data?
o   How will we present the findings?

Achievable and realistic short-term goals establish a conduit and ensure long-term business objectives are met. Promising attainable results builds confidence in your research objectives and encourages continued collaboration. It’s important to accurately assess resources prior to defining objectives, thus some questions UX researchers should answer are:
o   What goals are most important?
o   What personnel will conduct the research?
o   How long will it take to deliver results based on current resources?
o   What improvements can be made?
o   What would be the impact of improvements?
Relevance is critical throughout all stages of research. Goals must certainly be relevant to your clients’ business objectives but the study design must also be relevant to your target audience. Where the user clicks first or last may not be enough to simulate the user’s true experience. Some important questions take into consideration include but are not limited to the following:
o   Are the tasks relevant to your participants/focus group?
o   Does the environment mirror the true user experience?
o   Are the recommendations relevant to your client?
o   Do the goals match, leverage, or further the previous research efforts?
o   How can I make qualitative results relevant to my client?
Time-related goals are perhaps the single most important aspect of any business. Research is a production on many levels, thus it’s absolutely essential to set goals within a time frame and clearly define a timeline for deliverables. A commitment to a deadline is important to establish a sense of urgency for producing results. It’s imperative to know:
o   When will the research be conducted?
o   When will results be delivered?
o   When will adjustments based on the first round of testing be made?
o   When can you begin follow up testing to measure the impact of improvements?
o   When will all long-term goals and payments for research be fulfilled?
The SMART protocol brings about many important questions that encourage proactive solutions to common problems. Designing research to reflect the answers to these questions will remove all of the guesswork out of testing and align your goals with your client’s business objectives. UX researches can feel confident that they will increase their clients’ earned media by making the client’s satisfied users new and empowered brand ambassadors. This will be accomplished by making sure that the motivations of the specific users are measured in their truest forms, goals are attainable, recommendations are relevant, and they are provided to the client in a timely fashion.