McCain’s Error In Selecting Palin: Good User Research Leads To Better Results

As usability consultants, we don’t always get a chance to have virtually unlimited resources; for every project that we approach that allows us to do site inventories, competitive analysis, and focus groups, there are more of the “how about doing a site map and putting up a website?” implementations. There’s always an inherent risk with this approach, and probably a good reason why so many information technology projects fail: lack of proper information.

That’s what I find so astounding about John McCain’s choice for vice president candidate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. This is a real world example of why research is so important to the success of anything, much less a software project.

To put it in context, you could say that McCain had unlimited resources and plenty of time to do the user research to see if Palin was a good candidate for the Republican ticket. Money wasn’t an issue either, and for analysis, there are plenty of news stories and easy targets for humorists out there about Palin and some of the issues she’s had governing the fine state of Alaska.

Yet, he took the “let’s just do the site map and see what happens” approach. I’m not totally against the “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” way of doing things, but if you know a solution is flawed (that solution being Sarah Palin), you figure out ways around it. Forget the issues; every solution has differences of implementation, but some are so obviously flawed that 1) reworking them would be detrimental to the success of the project, or 2) are the wrong direction and lack the depth to succeed.  

But they didn’t know.

Don’t do the research, and you might get poor results.

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