This is a periodic series of short tips and tricks with words of wisdom that came directly from my mother. My mother, at sixty twfimniffthppth, is just retired enough to be spending quite a lot of time surfing and shopping online, and just old enough to be new at it.
One day it occurred to me that she is our audience. She is our customer. She is the one whose opinion we must heed lest our websites be banished to a state of mediocrity that fails to capture her need for ease, information and enjoyment.
Mother Says: “Don’t Make Me Click”
Do you know what I hate? She asks.
I’ve just finished regaling her with my newest analogy that compares web design to painting one’s living room, so she’ll understand the point I’m trying to make with my client-who-wants-the-other-blue story.
I hate when I’m looking for something and they put page one, two, three and make me click on that tiny little number to get to the next page instead of being able to go next-next-next.
“They” have subjected her to all manner of cruelty, but forcing her to find and click on those tiny little numbers is enough to put her onto a rant. I listen to this for a moment and it dawns on me that those tiny little numbers can indeed be kind of a pain to click on, especially for someone who is old enough to be… well… my mother.
It also dawns on me that if my mother, an internet convert and avid online shopper is annoyed by the tiny little numbers, there must be other people just like her who feel the same way. And those other people are my customers. I suddenly realize I’ve got a mini focus group of one right there on the other end of the phone and it’s time to start paying attention.
If You Paginate, She Will Click
The truth is that sometimes building a website is a bit of trial and error. Sure, there are best practices, industry standards and eye tracking studies to develop by.
But who’s to say whether customers will like clicking on page numbers or prefer a nice big “next” button? This is less of a question of which method is better than which one customers will prefer.
A safe bet would be to give customers both options and let them decide how they want to access information.
The Google search results page is an excellent example of this. You can click on page numbers or you can simply follow the previous and next links. The point is that I can search the way that’s most comfortable for me, and my mother can search her way too.
Seems like a simple win-win, but it’s one of those small details that often gets overlooked because so many people are trying to build web sites fast and cheap.
Lesson Learned: She’ll Do It Her Way
If you’ve got multiple pages in a section of your site, say search results or a product category, the simple takeaway here is to consider how you’ll let customers navigate through those pages and remember that my mother likes her next button while I happen to prefer picking my own page.
You can incorporate this into your web site right now and make the other half of your information seekers happy while improving the odds that you’ll make that sale. It’s such a small detail, but in the end it’s an accumulation of small details that can make or break your web site.
The larger lesson is that when you’re building your web site, make sure to think about how your customers will be using it – not how you’ll be using it, or how your marketing department or CEO will be using it, or even how you think customers will be using it. It can be difficult when you’re so close to something to get the perspective you need to understand what customers really want, but it will be time and effort well spent. So ask your customers.
Ask your neighbors and your Facebook friends. Pay attention to the details, the little nitpicky preferences that you can capitalize on to improve your web site for everyone.
And in the end, ask your mother, because chances are she’s the one you’re going to want spreading the word to her book club and knitting group about the great web site she just found, how easy it was to get around, and the fantastic things she just bought from it.