Listen To Your Mother: Advice For Making Your Website User-Friendly

Listen To Your Mother: Advice For Making Your Website User-Friendly

It happened again.

In the middle of a conversation about the ridiculous price of pork and the sad state of politics, my mother digressed into a discussion about the real problem with the world: bad websites.

Folks, take heed: my mother spends a lot of time online. She’s got her little laptop that goes everywhere with her like some women carry poodles in their purses and she’s looking at your website. And she’s picking it apart. I guarantee it.

If you want to know how she feels about your stupid page numbering system, read this.

If you want to know how much she hates your product display, check this one out.

If you want to know what really gets her goat and will drive her screaming from your site to every social channel she can think of to complain, read this.

And consider yourself warned.

Wait… you’re wondering why my mother’s opinion matters?

It’s because she’s your customer. She browses, researches and shops online. She’s old enough and retired enough to have the disposable income to buy – or not buy – as she sees fit.

Sure, she’s one person. But you can bet your booties that where there’s one person, there’s another. And I have to say, I’ve agreed with her on every grievance so far.

So consider this free advice from a focus group of one. And go fix your site.

Mother Says: Test Your Own %#@*& Site!

Sometimes you wonder who builds these sites, she tells me.

Indeed, sometimes you do.

I mean, don’t they know their site isn’t working? Doesn’t anybody pay attention to their own site?

My mother is incensed by a recent (failed) shopping experience during which she attempted to purchase a dress. And no $9.99 dress, either. We’re talking hundreds of dollars for an “occasion” dress.

Turns out there were several affronts to her personal sensibilities during this particular visit.

For starters, there was the “click to enlarge” function that opened up a separate window with another photo… of the same size. Clearly these people hadn’t read her last tirade.

Then there was the quantity issue.

I put in a quantity of 1 and when I went to my cart it came up as 2. So I had to delete one. The next thing I added to my cart, I added 1 and it came up 2 again. Really. People should test their own sites.

So far, can’t disagree. Can you?

Alas, then came the final offense.

After tolerating a lack of functionality in the interest of buying a dress she liked, just as she was about to check out, this message appeared:

This item has been discontinued. Please contact our store for more information.

Hells bells, fire and brimstone!

I mean! Really! If something is discontinued, why is it on the site for purchase? What’s the point? Do they think I’m just going to say ok, I’ll buy this other dress instead?

What’s the point, indeed.

This is the very thing I warned against in a recent post about how to build a great product page.

Faced with crummy photos, a dysfunctional shopping cart and a discontinued item, my mother abandoned everything in her cart and gave up. Oh, and she did not contact the store for more information.

She went to a competitor. And she bought their dress. And shoes. And purse. And jewelry. And cute little random thing that had nothing to do with the shopping occasion.

Do you want to risk this happening to you? No? Test your site.

If You Want Her To Use Your Site, It Had Better Work

There are so many ways to lose a customer. So many arbitrary, small, uncontrollable factors that can impact the way a customer feels about your business, your site, your products. Quirky nuances abound.

A functional website isn’t one of them.

In a world of unknowns and nuances, it’s vital to your business success that you control the things you can control and make sure you’ve stacked the deck in your favor.

Poor image quality or a lack of “enlarge” functionality, broken shopping carts and misleading messages are a surefire way to piss someone off. Someone like my mother. Someone like me. I bet, even, someone like you.

Nobody wants an unpleasant shopping experience. In fact, given what we know about diminishing attention spans and the fact that the word “rage” has been appended to just about every noun in the dictionary, I’d suggest that nobody wants anything but the perfect shopping experience.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a genius to get it right. You just have to try shopping on your own site.

Do your photos enlarge when they say they will? Is your inventory current? Is your checkout easy, clear and quick?

I tell you what: even if you don’t have time to test, or you think you might be biased and miss something, you can always ask your mother.

Lessons Learned: If Your Site Is Unfriendly, She Will Leave

A website should really be user-friendly, you know.

I’m impressed by my mom’s sudden use of internet jargon.

You know how you used to have fire drills in school, to practice in case of a real fire? That’s what people need to do on their websites. Practice, like a fire drill. Then when people want to shop they can do it easily.

I love my mother’s analogy. Practice like it’s a fire drill.

If you think about it, that’s a pretty good approach. The sense of urgency is real – if you mess up during practice, what happens when it’s time to do it “for real”? Buildings won’t crumble but your business may burn to the ground when people stop visiting your site or buying your products.

And the repetition is also relevant. In the internet world, just because something worked before doesn’t mean it will work again. Even if you test your site, contact form, shopping cart or any functionality today doesn’t guarantee it’ll work tomorrow. Periodic (and regular) “practice” will ensure that you don’t go up in flames when it really matters.