By Adam Goodvach of Global Reviews
When we build websites, we occasionally forget the true purpose behind what we’re doing. Most large B2C websites are based around functionality.
They exist to enable customers to achieve something more than bask in the glow of the company’s brand. Creating websites that help customers act is what building an effective website is about.
Principle 1: Customer-centric is not about creating a site that is ‘all about the customer’
Websites should treat the customer as a business associate with a job to do. Underlying each site should be a clear path that helps the customer do what they have come to the website to do.
We shouldn’t ignore the importance of producing an interaction in line with the brand’s personality but this should be a second priority.
It’s often over-blown and upsets the customer’s objectives. A customer who finds the website easy to use will have a better impression of the brand than a customer who battled through intrusive brand messages to achieve his/her goal.
You don’t want users to say: “The website was great fun but I couldn’t use it”
Principle 2: Customers have better things to do than use our websites
Unless you’re a rare breed of leisure company, customers don’t love you or your company. They may have found you to be an excellent provider of a service but they would still rather be spending time with their friends and family (or Xbox).
Customers want to get to the website, find the “quote” button, get their quote and leave. The more you put in the way of their path, the less likely it is that they will complete the quote and apply for insurance with your company.
As web designers, we shouldn’t expect customers to spend time appreciating the beauty of the website. We should spend hours building the website so that customers can achieve the purpose of their visit as simply as possible.
You don’t want users to say: “There was so much happening on the site that I couldn’t work out how to get a quote”
Principle 3: Present a website customers know how to use
We often have a desire to do something creative and different when building a website. Who wants to be responsible for producing a website that uses standard menus and looks like everyone else?
The issue is that it’s not about what we want to produce, it’s got to be about what the customer wants. Customers visit a few sites in an industry before settling on a decision so they often have some expectations of how your website should be organised.
Even if it’s the first time they visit a website in your industry, they will bring conventions they have gathered over years of internet usage. Pay due respect to industry and internet conventions because it makes it easier for customers to find what they are looking for online.
You don’t want users to say: “I was confused by all the funky terms used on the website. It didn’t make sense like the rest of the industry.”
Principle 4: Remember the weaknesses of the web
Most people who build websites, love websites. No one forced us into our jobs. It’s safe to assume that there was a reason that we entered the online industry. It probably has something to do with the amount of time we spend with computers outside work and as we grew up.
But be careful. Our love for the internet may lead us to think that it can do everything…it almost can but not quite.
It is inevitable that the people who love websites the most are those that build them but this also creates a weakness in the system. There are inherent weaknesses of the internet. It is fantastic at processing the order of someone who wants to buy a plane ticket.
However, it’s not as good as a travel agent when it comes to determining a customer’s needs and suggesting an appropriate holiday destination.
Another weakness is that the web has much less power to coerce behaviour from a customer than the telephone or a face-to-face interaction.
Knowing these weaknesses enables us to build websites that take advantage of the web’s strengths, compensates for its weaknesses and bows out when it’s done all it can. Integrating the web into offline channels is an important part of building the website and providing a complete customer experience.
You don’t want users to say: “I was trapped online without any other options and it was so frustrating.”
Credit: Adam Goodvach is co-founder of Global Reviews, a leading customer experience benchmarking company
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