and programmers want to push at the leading edge of
the technology and the interface. It’s only natural.
They eat and breathe web stuff, demanding even smarter
scripting and more advanced languages than we already
have. "We get it, we've got it, we're ready to move
on," they chortle. But your customers AREN’T
ready to move on. Heck, they haven’t even gotten
your goal is to slow your prospects’ downloads,
complicate the shopping process, distract them from
buying, and ultimately send them screaming in frustration
to your competition, then high-tech glitz is just the
ticket. But if you want to increase sales,
then, to twist the cliché, just don’t do it!
found this out the hard way. They
burned through $135 million in just a year and then went bankrupt
because their focus was not remotely on what their
customers really wanted. Their focus was on what their
go-to-the-edge-and-damn-the-bandwidth design team wanted
to parade: a high-tech site design that was so slow to
download, customers simply left - assuming their browsers
didn't crash first.i They assumed
what their customers wanted, and they assumed wrong. And
don’t be misled, this isn’t about bandwidth, and more
bandwidth would not have saved them - although their
incredible blindness to modem reality certainly
we have here is a Technology Gap between the developers
and your customers. Zona Research estimated that U.S. e-tailers
lost over $4.35 billion in 1998 due to unacceptably
slow download speeds and resulting user bailouts alone.ii
And the problem is getting worse, not better. The
Marie Antionettes of tech and design, fluent in languages
like XML and Cold Fusion, surrounded by 21-inch monitors
and coddled by 800 MHz machines interconnected by DSL or
T-1 lines, just don’t get the fact that the largest
group of Mr. and Ms. Customer still surfs at speeds under
anxious about going online at all, and is still trying to
figure out hyperlinks and menu bars.
top of this, consider results from studies that prove
people out there don't even want fancy graphics
when they go shopping, nor do they care about background
music, animations, or any other “entertainment.” What
they do want is to find the information they need to make
their purchase quickly, easily, and safely. Also,
the rules of print design do not apply on a
website. When shoppers read a printed page, their eyes
gravitate toward the pictures. (Yeah, you knew that.) But
on a site, your site, their eyes avoid
the pictures and search for useful text.iii
(Bet you didn’t know that!) And they certainly don't
want to wait ages for those unnecessary images to
download. Oh, and just how much does it help your
shopper to tell them that in order to view your site
they have to get a plug-in, wait for it to download, and
install it? (Get a what? Do…what? And wait even longer?
I’m OUTTA here!!)
think with all this information out there, along with
boo.com and lots of other sites like it having gone up in
smoke, at least the BIG guys would get it. Uh-uh. I just
read that Neiman Marcus (www.neimanmarcus.com)
is going to create an online shoe shop (complete with 360
degree views of the interior), entered "from a
virtual street, which will be dark or light depending on
what time the user logs on," where "shoes will
gently rise from racks and pirouette when clicked on, at a
speed determined by the user," the goal of which is
to bring "a life-like shopping experience to dial-up
I guess their designers don’t read about what
their sites are really supposed to do - or surf at human
speeds. (And how did this monster get approved?) Imagine
how long this is going to take to download. Oh, but if you’re
real quiet you can hear, as shoppers storm the Bastille,
the shrill voice of the designer, “Let them eat faster
modems!” But slow or fast, if studies plainly show customers
want quick, clear, useful information, why would anyone
think a rotating shoe would make them more likely to buy? No
one would who was listening to their
customers or who understood selling, as opposed to
technology or design or marketing.
get me wrong. There's a place out there for adventurous design.
Visionaries are tinkering with our future
experience, and that's cool!! You want to see sites that
"challenge the mind, enrich the soul and push
existing web technology to its limits"?v
"These sites are not accessible to everybody, but
they're not trying to be. Their purpose is to inspire a
particular audience, and they succeed."
you want to increase sales, you've got to think
like your customers, see the entire process through
their eyes, walk a mile in their shoes - or at least surf
a mile with their mouse. Folks have known that for a
long time (like, a couple thousand years!), and nothing
about being online changes that, even if bored designers
and programmers wish it could. So, since you can’t
expect designers and programmers to be experts in sales,
you have to be the one to call the shots, and “just
say no” to design fantasies. Yes, you have to be the
one to run your store.
"But More Online Shopping Sites Are On The Way."
Evelyn Nussenbaum, NYPost.com, 5/31/00.
ii "The Economic Impacts of Web Site Download
Speeds." Zona Research with Keynote Systems.
iii "Give Them Words, Not Pictures." Nick
Usborne, Clickz Network, 6/5/00.
iv Nussenbaum, NYPost.com, 5/31/00.
v "HTMHell: Where Have All The Designers
Gone?" Jeffrey Zeldman, Adobe Web Columns. Mr.
Zeldman draws a vivid picture of the tension between
designer, client and consumer
click here for a printable version of this whole article
Hey, It’s Music to MY Ears!
Nope, not Verdi's monumental opera. But just as
monumental in its own way. A proven formula that guarantees
powerful and effective strategies in marketing,
advertising and sales. And it’s just at home in
cyberspace as it is in real space. That’s music to anyone’s
you want your customers buying, then coming back
to buy again and again. Telling their friends about
you, too. I mean, you do, don’t you? (Whew, I was
starting to wonder!)
make sure every single page on your website passes the AIDAS
test. Yeah, I snuck an “S” in on you. Our good
friend Hal Alpiar made me to do it :-) I’ll
explain, I promise.
your customer's ATTENTION.
your page capture them in 10 seconds or less?
With something that speaks to their felt need? And,
do you sustain that attention by responding to
their clicks (their questions) just as well, just
you show your customers immediately that you can
meet their needs? If not, why should they
hang around? Do you provide useful information, and
do it in a user-friendly format? Do you give your
shoppers a reason to stay? Do you make it easy
for them to find everything they are looking for? (Or do
you make it easier for them to leave than stick
around and be frustrated or confused? Your competitors are
only a click away. And that’s just your online
point: The folks who sell flash will try to sell you
that flash is important, that people want to be
entertained when they shop, that entertainment is “sticky”.
(We’re not talking about useful content
that may also be entertaining - shouldn’t it be anyway?)
Here’s a little Martian for you: BUH-LOW-NEE! The
only time people want to be entertained is when they’re
searching for … entertainment (duh!). Study after study
proves that when people want to buy, what they want
- ALL they want - is to find the info they need and be
able to complete the purchase confidently, easily, and
quickly. Period. As for “sticky:
it easy and safe for them to buy and you won’t
need to give them anything else; don’t, and nothing
else will matter.
you inspiring your customers to stay with you and keep
clicking up to and through the purchase? (And
remember, dancing bears will not do it - unless, of
course, your target demographic is 9-year-olds with
borrowed credit cards.)
them to take ACTION.
may be to buy, or it may simply be to click again on
the way to making a purchase. Either way, do you make
it logical, easy, obvious (and again, desirable)
- even for a newbie? Do you lead your customer through the
buying process in a way that makes sense to them?
In fact, have you even thought about it as a process?
And are you helping them to take action, pushing
them to take action, or demanding they take action?
Which do you think works best? Which one would you
like to experience?
every click on every page get them more of
what they want? Or do some clicks get them what you
want to push, or confuse them, or display what one of your
programmers or graphic artists wanted to show off? Do some
clicks even generate error messages? Yes it happens. All
the time. Even on your site. Does the experience of
shopping your site delight your customers? Does
it make them feel good about buying from you? A
satisfied customer comes back, and tells others. A
dissatisfied customer doesn’t come back, and
tells even more people.
Make it your song. If you don't sing it, someone
else most certainly will.