Return to: GROK Dot Com 5/1/2000

Want Help With Your Site?  Ask Your Mom!
Are you designing your website to lose sales? Could you be ignoring the fastest growing segment of the population without knowing it? The last thing you'd want to do is alienate one of your biggest buying audiences, right? So here's a simple question for you: could your Mom buy from your site?

Boomers and their parents arethe largest growing segment of the buying population. Money and numbers; a match made in heaven. But most e-businesses out there aren't paying attention to the fact that these folks didn't cut their teeth on computers. Many would even admit to having computer-phobia, afraid the wrong click will bring about the end of the world as they know it. Faced with uncertainty or the risk doing something wrong, they'll just leave your site. And when they leave, they'll spend their money elsewhere. You do want to help them buy on your site, don't you?

Here's what you do. Grab your Mom or a friendly person about her age (your Dad in a pinch, although women account for a greater share of online purchasing decisions) and spend five minutes with her on your site. See if she can navigate her way through, find what she wants, and complete a purchase. Completely.

Yesterday I was watching my friend Lisa's Mom go shopping on the JCPenney site, (, so she could save a trip to the mall. The first page took forever to appear. She tapped her pencil distractedly and then muttered something I donít think moms are supposed to say. When the page finally loaded, she was overwhelmed by all of the small type. At her age she canít see as well as when she was 25. She scootched closer to the screen but that didn't help much. Then, it took a long time for her to make sense of the "strategy" of the site. She did have a moment of triumph when she discovered how rollover menus work. But then they kept disappearing under her cursor just as she was about to click!

Eventually she got to a page that had teeny pictures on it. The web designer guy calls them thumbnails. After squinting and staring for a few minutes, she was still puzzled and paralyzed. Quickly, she decided a trip to the mall was going to be much easier. She logged off. The result: not just a lost sale but also bad feelings. When she got to the mall, JCPenney was not where she shopped.

How could JCPenney have avoided this? Larger type, bigger pictures, simple and consistent navigation, information that stands out, lots of clear instructions and online help, an intuitive process that reflects how people buy Ö all of these things would have made a big difference. Lisa's Mom could have had a much more enjoyable shopping experience and JCPenney could have had a happy shopper. Happy shoppers tend to buy. When they buy, they tend to buy more, and they tend to buy again, and they tell others about their wonderful shopping experience.

Bells, whistles and gimmicks don't impress these folks or help them feel like buying. Nor can they make up for fundamentally bad designs and confusing processes. These people want text they can read, pictures they can see, help in every form available at every moment, and simple, obvious links. Oh, and if you give them a search engine, it better return relevant and comprehensible results. Next, present them with every viable payment option at check out: via an online secure and a non-secure shopping cart, an e-mail order form, a fax order form, a phone number. Finally, reinforce them after the sale. Donít leave them in omigod-whatís-gonna-happen-next land. If they can find what they are looking for quickly and can purchase it easily, you have a new - and happy - customer.

People come to your site because they want to buy. Don't make it hard for them. So spend five minutes with your Mom or another Mom-like human and see if your site passes the Mom Test!

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Return to: GROK Dot Com 5/1/2000

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