Return to: GROK Dot Com 8/15/2000

One Click Away from Goodbye
Every time I see a website that sucks, I can hear the background banter of its developers and programmers. “So it's not completely obvious,” they’re saying. “It's not that hard. Let them figure it out. They'll get used to it." These dudes sure put a lot of faith in the patience, motivation and resiliency of their visitors!

Sure, you've heard me rant about all those design pitfalls that spell death to an e-commerce website. But let's take a broader view. I want to paint a picture that helps you understand the stuff your average prospect goes through even before they land on your website, so you'll see even more clearly why designing a delightful experience for them is so critical to your sales. You see, Joe and Josephine Consumer are also Joe and Josephine Basic-User.

Just suppose you head out in your car to go shopping. You know what you want to buy. You know this neat new store you heard about actually has the item in stock. You think it's gonna be a cakewalk. But along the way you get stuck in a really snarly traffic jam. It's a blistering hot day. Your car overheats. It takes hours to fix the problem. Finally you're back on the road. Only now you discover there's a detour ahead. You thought you followed all the signs, so how come you're lost? Another hour of wandering and eventually you locate the store. Naturally, you have to park on the other side of the planet. Guess what kind of mood you are in. Guess what's going to happen if that neat new store does even the tiniest thing wrong.

Been there? I thought so. Now, here's the cyberspace equivalent for most (let me repeat, most) folks out there:

Figuring out a personal computer. Plug this in where? Start what? What's a task bar? I don't see any windows on my screen!

Getting on-line. What's an ISP? What do I really need? Why can't I just plug it in and go?

Learning to use e-mail. Okay … I get the bit about not needing stamps …

Learning to use a browser. Omigod, if I click will I cause the Fall of Western Civilization? Whew, I’m there but… how the heck do I get back??

Learning to use navigation, hyperlinks, frames and forms. Go where …do what … how? How come this flashes at me? Hey, it changes color! Where the heck am I? You want me to give you this information? Why? You just fed the whole form back to me. What did I do wrong?

Learning to download. What am I letting onto my computer? I go where to install? Help!

Learning to use plug-ins. I need what to do this? Says who? That's what they think (said while clicking off to the next competitor)!

Learning about pop-up boxes and drop-down menus. Whoa, where did this come from? What am I supposed to do? Why won't it stay on my screen?

Deciphering cryptic error messages. It killed my computer! Error 404? Get me out of here!

Differentiating legitimate business from scams. Who am I to trust when there aren't any faces?

Only after negotiating all these hurdles (and maybe a vodka on the rocks or two) do they arrive on your site. Give them any reason to leave, and they will.

Have a better appreciation of what you’re up against now? You can't do anything about the frustrations Joe and Josephine have endured before they find you. But once you've finally hooked up, you need to be especially kind to them. The whole trick is in making Mr. and Ms. Basic-User - not Mr. and Ms. Techno-Whiz - want to stay and want to buy from you! Make it worth their while to have figured out everything it took to get to your site. And remember: while you’re (always) one click away from goodbye, your competitor, who has taken the time and made the effort to create a smooth, simple, safe and delightful experience for them, is just one click away from hello.

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Return to: GROK Dot Com 8/15/2000

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