Web App Masters: Care of a Corporate Cash Cow

by Luke Wroblewski June 9, 2010

At the Web App Master's Tour in Philadelphia PA, Ken Kellogg discussed the challenges inherent in The Care and Feeding of a Corporate Cash Cow by sharing his experiences managing user research for the redesign of Marriott.com.

  • To build an effective toolkit, start with your strengths. Build from the things you know.
  • You need to negotiate in order to get things done. In order to get executives to align with you, you need to present the information you have and move toward them through collaboration. They won’t move toward you unless you move toward them.
  • Evangelize what your team is doing and what you have learned. If you learn from mistakes you made, evangelize those as well.
  • Naming the usability observation room the “executive lounge” helps invite executives to observe user testing.
  • Multi-variant testing gets you the last 10% of optimization. It does not get you from 0% to 90%. You need fundamental research to cross that gap.
  • Marriot’s top redesign challenge: do no harm and don’t hurt the cash cow. Marriot.com was the 7th largest commerce channel on the Web in 2008 and booked 6.5 billion dollars online in 2009. 80,000 transactions per day are booked online. Marriott.com is Marriott’s fastest growing channel and most cost-effective channel.
  • Why change marriot.com if the company is making money and has great brand affinity? The original Marriott site was not optimized for search engine referrals and only worked well for habituated users -many new users were confused.
  • Habituated vs. occasional visitors: Marriott.com was a members-only club. Frequent users had no problems with the site. But the people that don’t come regularly got lost and had problems.
  • Beyond the “make a reservation” feature, there were 77 other places to click on the Marriott home page.
  • Projects tend to have multiple stakeholders and sponsors. The research team had to interview 107 internal stakeholders and run check-ins with them during the design process.
  • Marriott’s business processes are traditional and back-end systems are dated. As a result, time to market is long. First phase of Marriott redesign took about a year.
  • When you go back to your jobs, find someone you can mentor. Help them become a professional in our field. Help them make all new mistakes. This is not a selfless move. The people you mentor today are the ones that will support you in the future.