Listening to the Users

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As a Web Producer/Strategist I have unfortunately seen the below Acme story from “Good Experience” a bit too many times. Dear Marketers, PR experts, Tech Directors, Small bizz owners, etc, etc – I urge you with every fiber of my being to start listening to customers and stop listening to just yourselves. Don’t assume that whatever you churn out will be loved by everyone – do some client research, study usability, use technology that makes sense – If you build it RIGHT they will come and engage and it will be a win win situation for everyone 🙂

A day at Acme Corp

“I spent a day at Acme Corp recently… you know, the multinational
company that makes all the supplies for Wile E. Coyote and other
avid inventors. (Hey, I figure it’s more interesting than ‘all names
and details have been vastly changed’ etc. 🙂

Anyway. Acme had a problem: research showed that their website was
completely, unforgivably, disastrously hard to use for their
customers. And *ugly*, on top of that, as if it was spat from a
template circa 1996.

So I sat down with the executives, everyone with a stake in the
online presence, to help them improve the business metrics by
improving their website.

Here’s an excerpt of the meeting transcript, more or less.

Me: One thing customers complained about was the home page
navigation. To quote one customer we talked to, ‘I can’t figure this
thing out and I’m leaving right now.’ I think it had something to do
with the flaming chainsaw animation that follows the mouse pointer
around the screen. Is it possible we could remove that?

VP Marketing: Oh right, the flaming chainsaw animation. I’d love to
take that off the site, really I would, but I just think it’s so
neat, and besides it aligns with our brand message of innovation
here at Acme.

Me: But customers would shop more, and buy more, if it wasn’t there.
Wouldn’t you like to reconsider that animation?

VP Marketing: Here in Marketing we have to adhere to our brand
guidelines, and innovation is central to that, so I’m afraid the
animation has to stay.

Me: OK – next up is the customer complaint about the 18-level-deep
flying dynamic navigation sub-menus. Several customers said all the
menus zipping around the screen made them dizzy.

VP Technology: I know what you’re referring to. That menu system
took our technology team six months to code up, and I have to say
it’s the most advanced implementation I’ve ever seen, really an
awesome job.

Me: The technology is impressive, for sure… I mean, I’ve never
seen 18 nested levels all flying in unison like that.

VP Technology: Thanks, man.

Me: Uhh – sure thing. But I’d just like to push back a little on
this – the customers did say that the menus were confusing. How
about a simpler menu, maybe just a few links to the top-level
categories, and that’s it?

VP Technology: Listen, I’m all for simplicity and ease-of-use and
all that, I hear you. I really get it. But I have to tell you, Web
technology is moving fast, and if we don’t keep up, we’re going to
look like Google or something. A bunch of blue links. Borrring.

Me: Allllright. Now we’ve covered the flaming chainsaw and the
flying menus, let’s move on to the logo graphic. Some customers
complained that they didn’t want to scroll down a full page just to
get past the logo, the large stock photos, and the slogan.

VP Branding: What did they say about the color scheme? I’m just
wondering, because the green and fuscia palette is really supposed
to, you know, bring forth assocations of innovation and holistic
thinking, all while blending in with the flames from the chainsaw.

Me: I think I have a plane to catch. (Exit conference door right)”

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