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: “I Want To Know What To Expect”
You made me sound so old and doddering, my mother complains. She’s just finished reading my interpretation of the last bit of advice she gave me about making it easy to get from page to page on a website.
I assure her it’s just poetic license and that I appreciate her insight into what makes a website work for her. I sense a longer-than-usual silence, perhaps as she considers whether it’s worth the risk of discussing whatever “they’ve” done this time.
Do you know what else I hate? I hate when they don’t tell you how many pages there are and I have to keep clicking next-next-next. I have no way of knowing how long I’ll have to keep going. It gets boring. I mean, how many products ARE there?
I’m a little smarter this time so I grab my pen and start jotting notes about the terrible indiscretions of the ubiquitous “they”. It turns out they build some pretty crummy web sites, which is great for me because it’s fodder for this blog, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be redoing that web site when they realize it stinks and they want to hire a good professional.
It also turns out that my mother’s attention span maxes out at about ten pages and if she doesn’t get to the end of a product listing, she gives up and goes away. And the sale goes with her. Maybe there was something interesting in those ten pages, maybe not. But we’ll never know because my mother has simply gotten bored and gone away.
If You Give Her An End Point, She’ll Follow You There
If I were you, I’d go to my search results or my product categories page right now, and if those finite page numbers are missing, I’d put them in before another person’s mother gets bored and takes her disposable income with her.
I happen to totally agree with her on this one. Without page numbers it’s anyone’s guess as to how long the clicking will go on, and I don’t know about you, but I’m busy.
If I’m looking for a pair of red shoes and it doesn’t show up in the first few pages, and there’s an indefinite number of pages to go, I’m so out of there. Unless, of course, I know there are only three more pages to go. Then I’ll hang in and maybe catch that perfect pair of shoes on the last page.
This is just another example of a small detail that is so small as to be completely overlooked. As business owners and developers we’re always busy thinking big-picture. We’re planning our calls-to-action and analyzing the eye-tracking on our home pages to be sure we’ve got the email signup box in the right place. We’re planning customer touch points and segmenting marketing lists.
Yet the simple lack of a finite number of pages, a tiny little space devoted to saying “Page 1 of 4” is enough to cost us customers.
Lesson Learned: She’s Busy, Too
You already know you only have about five seconds to capture your visitor’s interest. If you’ve managed that miracle, don’t ruin your chances of gaining a new customer because you’ve neglected something as simple as adding page numbers to your site.
But the lesson here is much bigger than page numbers. It’s about managing your customers’ expectations, whether that’s by letting them know how many steps are in your checkout process, how long it will take for an item to ship, or how many clicks it will take to reach the end of a product category. Your customers will follow if you lead.
So when you build your site, pay attention to the smallest of details so that people know exactly what to expect when searching, ordering, returning, contacting or clicking. The better you can define exactly what’s involved in doing business with you, the more likely you’ll be to build the trust required to turn casual shoppers into customers.
And who knows, one of them may even be my mother.