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13. "Don't Limit My Choices"

Poor navigation will, of course, restrict the choices customers have because they won't be able to make the appropriate selections to get to where they need to go.

The broader issue of navigation aside, we will look at some specific instances where customers are directly offered choices and where those tend to be problematic.

Classifying customers

Different customers have different needs, and many Web sites classify customers to help direct them to different information. This might work if you know who these different customers are along with their needs. Too often, customer classifications are made from a company's perspective and are not meaningful to customers.

Beware of putting your customers in boxes, unless you really know they'd put themselves in a box, without a moment's hesitation. Your marketing segmentation approach may make sense to you and mean absolutely nothing to your customers.

Incorrect classification will anger your customers because it gets in the way of them doing what they want to do on your Web site.

Drop-down lists

Drop-down lists can be double-edged swords. They offer finite parameters to customer selections, and that can be very helpful and useful to customers. However, these lists often fall short because they just don't include the options customers are looking for, or they don't allow customers to send the right messages about who they are, their problems, their needs, or what they need to do.

Lists that require mutually exclusive selections stump customers. What do customers do when more than one, or maybe even all, of the possible selections apply to them? They are forced to limit their response to one selection, and it just isn't enough. I've observed customers who sit and look at lists like this, scratch their heads and say, "What do I do now?" Some customers will make a single selection and make do while others will just decide not to interact on the basis of limited choices. If customers bail out, it can have significant consequences, especially if they're in the middle of buying your product.

Figure 2-7 Badly placed and proorly explained authentication.

"Search" is one of the areas most likely to frustrate customers. This is probably because it is potentially one of the most useful tools customers have to get where they want to go. Get it wrong, and it's a double whammy.

Search functions can limit customers' choices when the functions present search criteria unrelated to what the customer is looking for, and by "anchoring" searches to criteria other than those the customer is interested in at a particular time (anchors are discussed further in Chapter 7).

Customer service

Customers also get very frustrated when they are presented with limited online services. They get annoyed when they want to make a particular transaction, and can't, or are forced to limit their interaction.

This problem is particularly prevalent when customers are completing forms to receive certain services. Some forms ask the customer to check certain boxes and obviously limit the nature of the service available.


Insufficient choices

Consider a customer who is thinking about getting a mobile phone. They go to a Web site and select the section on mobile phones. The site offers a link that provides "guidance" to customers wanting to evaluate mobility products. Clicking on this link brings up a series of drop-down lists. The customer is able to select one of the scenarios in each list to generate advice in relation to each selection. A drop-down list presents the following options: I would use a mobile phone:

  • To have one just in case, but not make many calls

  • But don't want monthly contracts, monthly bills, or fees

The customer thinks to themselves, "Hang on. I'll probably make lots of calls and I don't mind having monthly contracts. What do I select, since neither of these apply?" The customer proceeds down the other lists and finds that none of them apply. The customer has to go straight to the product list so they can work out what they need for themselves.

Restrictive search criteria

A professional goes to a Web site that offers job-finding services. The professional wants to see the types of roles on offer, to see whether there is a fit with their skills and experience.

The professional clicks on "Search Available Jobs" to receive a search function. However, the search function they are presented with only allows them to search against location. Actually, location is the least relevant criteria for this professional because they are happy to be located anywhere, provided they're in a good job.

To avoid wading through jobs classified by location, the professional goes onto another company's Web site. This one allows them to search against lots of different criteria: type of role, salary range, skills, etc. However, every time the search engine produces results, they are all "pinned" to, or "anchored" on, location. To view jobs by role, the professional has to also click through location (and sometimes there are up to three or four levels of locations to click through). Well, this isn't perfect but it's better than the last site. Depending on how good the roles look, the professional might wade through locations as well, or, then again, they might not...

Limited customer service

Continuing the above scenario, the professional finds a link on the Web site inviting them to "Provide Feedback on the Site". They decide they'll do just that and click on this link to receive a form they can complete and send. However, this form only allows them to check boxes in relation to "bugs encountered" on the Web site. Can frustrations with a search engine be classified as a bug? Probably not. The form doesn't allow them to enter any comments either, and the professional is forced to give up.

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