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

By August 10, 2012June 26th, 2015Website Design & Marketing
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.


Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Mothers are awesome. I know my website is broken on mobile, something I am trying to fix. Meanwhile Desktop users are fine. It can be a balancing act. But not having features like a shopping cart working for an eCommerce website is not a good thing. All these issues stand between them making any money.

    • There’s always something to work on when it comes to websites! The key takeaway is “pay attention”. You know you have to fix your site on mobile – some people would say “what mobile?”

  • Fantastic post.

    Recently I wrote on a similar topic. I’d post a link but I’m afraid your mother will find it.

  • Hi Carol,

    With the the sites we have out there, all the choices at a click of a mouth it’s easier to jump to another site than to go to another store, so definitely our site should be working perfectly to be sure that we don’t miss a sales.

    Many times, I think that we may assume that something works, but checking is always the safe thing to do.

  • Sue Price says:

    Hi Carol
    As usual I love your post as you always make me smile. I can “hear” your mother.
    I too get annoyed when you have to click around forever to buy something. I sometimes think websites are built to turn their customers away. Clearly they are not but I know I mutter that to myself at times.
    I am sure it is not too difficult to make the customers experience easy.
    Great post thanks


    • I love the little snippets of advice I get from my mom. First of all it’s usually pretty hilarious to listen to how she says it, but she also says stuff that’s right. She’s a customer trying to shop online so if something drives her nuts then it’ll probably drive someone else nuts!

  • Adrienne says:

    I’m glad my site is just a blog and she won’t be critiquing mine anytime in the near future but I totally understand. Now my Mom is probably a LOT older then yours and right now she’s using my laptop until I can get her service connected but she hates to be confused. Heck, I hate to be confused.

    I was on Overstock last night and was about to pull my hair out. Was just ordering another blind like the one we had already gotten or I would have gone elsewhere to locate the same thing. Horrible site in my experience so I sympathize with your Mom.

    I bet she’s a lot of fun Carol!

    • haha, better watch out, you never know when my mom will start reading blogs, too! I love hearing her “complaints” because most of the time it’s already something I feel the same way about, stuff that drives me nuts, and also because it’s a good lesson in what ordinary people think. I hate when you get stuck ordering from someplace because it’s your only option! Makes me mad, grrrr… Maybe we should send my mom over there to teach them a lesson 🙂

  • Hi Carol,

    I know what you mean. Excellent customer or user experience. Needs to be simple and should know our customers and their behaviors. I was developing windows applications for my school projects and they should work real-time without validation or any such error. As I used to work with people who directly engage with such software, I’ve learnt that being user friendly is really the key factor.

    Nice tips on building websites and making ’em user friendly. We gotta think like customers and act like ’em to know what they prefer to have. Up-to-date information is another thing. I’ve seen obsoleted info some websites, but not much on popular ones though. It’s really irritating for customers and they’d prefer offline shopping if the information not being updated necessarily.


    • Since you’ve worked on apps, you must have a lot of experience with user interface! Sometimes even when we think something will work and it sounds really good in our head, it doesn’t always work out so well in real life. I actually enjoy the testing part because I like to find things that annoy me 🙂 Then I can get someone to fix it!