Is Your Site Irritating?By: Heather Reimer
When I was in sixth grade, there was this big goon in my class who terrorized all the kids, especially the small ones. His favorite trick was to grab the cap off my head (and in a -25 degree Canadian winter, this was not as amusing as it sounds). He'd dangle it just out of my grasp; now bringing it tantalizingly close; now snatching it away.
Sometimes, I just gave up and went home without it.
Well, today that bully is still following me around. Only now, he's changed shapes and multiplied. My 21st century bullies are all the web designers who dangle their information just beyond my reach and won't let me "get it."
Let me give you a few examples.
BULLY #1: I recently stumbled upon an absolutely gorgeous website that shall remain nameless. You could tell a lot of thought had gone into its lush design: an Egyptian theme throughout; rich earth tones; 3D-effect wallpaper; jeweltone click buttons. It was everything the gods of esthetics prescribe.
I couldn't figure out what in the name of Nefertiti they were selling.
The home page had no menu and gave no hint where to click to proceed inside. I moused around until I finally found the c-spot which took me to a second page that also had no menu and no information. I clicked again. And again. This painfully slow-loading site forced me to click four times before it coughed up some product information. Yawn.
GRADE SCHOOL LESSON: If your visitors are still groping around in the dark after two or three clicks, they'll go home without their caps.
BULLY #2: Even the pros screw up sometimes. Here's the story of how a major airline bullies its online visitors.
I dropped in to their website recently with two objectives: to get flight information; and to learn about their frequent user program. Well, I got my flight information, no problem. But here's what happened when I tried to get a basic explanation of their rewards program:
I found the program, let's call it Fflyer, listed on the home page and clicked. It brought me to a menu where I logically (or so I thought) selected "the basics". This delivered me to yet another menu with options like "how to claim your reward", "elite program" and "newsletter". But no "About Us" page, no tidy little summary of the Fflyer program.
If I was an ordinary web surfer I'd have checked out at that point. But in the name of research, I pushed on.
That same page also sported a cascading menu that offered information for Fflyer members and guests. Since I'm not yet a member, I clicked on guests. Which took me to a registration form. And STILL no details on their program!
I tried one last thing. I went back to the cascading menu and clicked on "earning miles". It opened up a new page with...surprise, surprise... another menu of options. Research completed.
GRADE SCHOOL LESSON: Keeping the ball away from the monkey in the middle is a lot of fun... unless you're the monkey.
BULLY #3: Sometimes bullies manage to confuse us AND shoot themselves in the foot at the same time.
There's a small website that rates online casinos. The first item on their "Recommended Casinos" page read something like this: "Please don't visit these casinos... they're rip offs." I was surprised to find, directly below that, the names and URLs of several major online gaming sites that I knew to be reputable.
It took a few minutes to figure out what went wrong. The webmaster had failed to make it clear that the list of rip-off casinos was actually on the next page, one click away. He just ran all his text together in a block and forgot those two most important words: Click Here.
As a result, he misinformed his visitors AND drove traffic away from his preferred casinos (who were likely paying him a commission on referred traffic).
GRADE SCHOOL LESSON: If you do your homework in a big hurry without paying attention to details, you'll only be hurting yourself.
These three Internet bullies forgot the basics of organization that every good student knows. Before writing a major essay, put your thoughts in order with an outline. Before uploading a new website, draw a flow chart with all your pages represented and a sound idea of how visitors will navigate among them.
Then test the navigation on somebody who knows nothing about your product and see if they can find the answers to their questions. Quickly and painlessly.
If they "get it"... if they leave your neighborhood with their caps on their heads and aren't afraid to play on your street the next time... then you'll know you're NOT an Internet bully.
© Copyright 2000, Heather Reimer
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