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2. "Tell Me What I Get If I Do This"

Web sites can't show everything all on one level. It's just physically impossible. We have to put different information on different levels and give customers paths to navigate their way through it.

Customers need to make an informed decision of whether or not it is worth their while to head down a particular path or partake in a particular process. The more we can tell customers about the consequences of their actions, the better. And "telling" a customer what's going to happen, or is happening, will involve written and visual cues.

Blind action and hidden consequences

Unfortunately, we often don't make a certain path clear to customers and they don't know what they're committing to when taking a certain action. The result of an action isn't always clear. This means that customers will not try the action or will try it and be disappointed or confused.

This is particularly problematic when customers become eligible for something as a result of a transaction, but don't know exactly what that is until after the transaction. This might result in customer delight if they are eligible for more than they expect, but, chances are, they'll be disappointed.

Also, when customers are considering whether or not to purchase online, they want to know what the process is and need help every step of the way (including confirmation of a successful purchase at the end of the process). Customers often feel uncertain about what's happening to them if they don't understand the steps they're going through. This lack of understanding sometimes results in fear, and this will prevent some customers from purchasing online.

Hidden time requirements

Some processes take up a lot of customer time, but the customer doesn't know that up front. Customers don't mind investing a bit of time if the payback is good, but they get angry when things unexpectedly pop up along the way. Downloads are particularly problematic because of the time taken to complete them. Many customers also aren't comfortable with performing downloads; they feel they don't know enough about what's going on. Some customers will venture a download, but they need to know exactly what's involved up front and receive help along the way.

Blunders

Blind registration

A researcher comes to a Web site to find out about a particular piece of research they know has been completed by a research organization. They are not a client, as such, but are prepared to register and pay for the research if necessary.

On coming to the Web site the researcher finds that the information they want is not publicly available. The Web site does, however, offer registration. There are two types of registration, one for clients and one for a complimentary account. There is no explanation of what the registration processes will offer. Irrespective of this, the researcher is willing to register for a complimentary account, because they expect it to give them access to the piece of research they're looking for.

The researcher goes through four screens to complete the registration process. (It would have been five or six if someone else had chosen the same username or password as they did.) On completing the registration process, it finally becomes clear to the researcher what they are eligible for. It turns out that they can access the research they want, but they can't access the full transcript without client access.

The researcher now has to go back and find out what is required to qualify for client access. They are perturbed that they didn't know, up front, what they had to do to get the information they wanted. Let's hope the research, if they can actually get hold of it, is worth all this hassle.

The sequence the researcher goes through is shown in Figure 2-1.

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