Some things everyone should know about websites

One of the most infuriating things about websites is when they ask you to do things.

We all know the type of things websites, or the businesses that own the websites, want – subscriptions, social media interactions and more (more, more) sales. Being businesses, they tend to be quite good at getting what they want, and that is usually fine – our economy functions precisely because of this. However, this particular process of websites getting what they want has the potential to be rage inducing. Why?  Because websites rarely ever do the one thing we value as humans – the things we teach even our most young to do. They don’t say please or thank-you, and they don’t apologise. This gives them the capacity (and often the tendency) to be rude.

Let’s use an analogy. You are cold to the bone, walking through the late night streets of Russia. You are utterly underdressed for such a freezing night. As you walk, you see a light ahead, one place still open. With no way to reach home, no taxis and being so ill prepared, you seek refuge. Getting closer, you see that the light is coming from a neon sign of a bustling night club. As you get closer still you realise there are two huge bouncers standing either side of the glass doors.

Realising the situation, you predict that one of three things is about to happen – either you will be able to go inside (preferably quickly, cheaply and without any undue pain), you won’t be able to get inside (because it will take too long, you can’t afford it or you are excluded from entry by some other means) or you will have to seek another option (which is not ideal under such bleak circumstances).

The idea of getting inside, out of the cold, seems the best option.

Unfortunately, I’m one of the bouncers – and I’m in a bad mood.

“ID” I grunt, through unsmiling eyes and gritted teeth.

Though you respond quickly and properly, my mood does not change. I proceed to check you for weapons. Nothing.

Then I ask you why you are here alone, force you to sign up to my newsletter, get you to tell me all of your most intimate details (like your mother’s maiden name and place of birth). Then – after you have jumped through all of my many hoops, I send you to the back of the que – shivering, cold and alone – until you bring me the confirmation code from your email and I have received your payment for entry. When you do finally manage enter by a back door, the place inside is confusing and alien.

All in all, not a great experience – but at least you are inside, out of the cold.

Then, my break begins, and another bouncer, this one more friendly and helpful, takes my place. He is almost my opposite – he leads new people into the warm entrance hall and introduces them to the ticket staff. He is funny, he makes jokes, answers questions about what is happening and then explains just how good the club is – what a great time they will have inside. He takes them to the most busy spots and recommends a few cocktails.

When he finally lets people know they can become members of this great place – everyone joins.

Now in these two scenarios, the outcomes – ie you getting into the club and the business getting what they want from you – is the same. The process, however, was vastly different, and therefore had a huge impact on the experience.

Because of my unhelpful, unfriendly and pushy manner, it is unlikely you would return (unless the club was particularly good). So, I would imagine (or at least hope) that any business owner would fire me. They would realise that I was not good for business in the long run.

Now consider websites. They are just like nightclubs – they often hold inside them things which we desire – media, information, entertainment – many even have a social element. Just like nightclubs, websites have bouncers too. While these bouncers (or security / login protocols) tend to behave the same way every time – this ‘same way’, can be (analogously) just like me. They can be demanding, unresponsive, closed-minded and deposit you in rather strange places you didn’t really want to be.

For whatever reason, however, many business simply don’t understand what impact this is having. Much like the difference between my approach – sullen and moody – and the second bouncers approach – happy and helpful – a bad login process can mean the difference between a satisfied returning customer, and you – a slightly bemused, cold user – wandering, lost and confused.

This is probably not a good thing for customers, so, we thought we would lay down a few guidelines to make sure your website customers don’t end up like you.

Oh yes, that’s right – we are going to talk about website navigation. Woo-hoo!

Oh no! A lecture about website navigation!!

Well … yes and no. It’s about website navigation, but it’s not a lecture: I’m not going to use statistics, I’m not going to use web analytics, I’m not even going to use difficult terminology. Instead I’m going to make some observations.

I will start with a statement: A website login process doesn’t change by itself. Ie….

If it was laborious and annoying to begin with, it’s still annoying … unless you changed it.

If your login process was quick and easy, it’s still quick and easy … unless you changed it.

There we go – one observation. Simple and true – websites don’t typically change or improve unless there is an action (by a human) to actually make a difference to it.

Why is this observation important, and relevant to you?

Well – the first reason is to explain that if you use a website regularly (say a few months), you stop seeing what new users see. You stop noticing problems with design or functionality. This is bad, especially if there are big issues with things like logging in that you are not responding to.

Secondly, humans have a tendency of thinking they are right – that their way of doing things is the best way, and that changing it would mean wasting a great amount of time and effort. As evidence of this, consider that for at least 125,000 years we (humans) have had fire, but it was not until 1805 that the matchstick first appeared, and even later in 1823 that someone thought to invent the lighter. For thousands of generations people had struggled for hours at a time – toiling to turn a burning cinder into a blaze. For all this time, they really believed it was the best way of doing things. As such, they suffered in relative silence. Today – we know there are better options, so would not put ourselves through the extreme hassle for no reason.

So too we know that websites today are not the finished product – they often use rudimentary and crude methods to achieve their aims. Unfortunately, this is too often ignored, and people simply assume that their login process – created to ensure security and stop hacking – is also the best way to introduce their customers to their business. It is a classic misunderstanding, and it affects websites all over the world.

The most difficult thing to accept about this is how easy it would be to improve this process. As such, we have created three simple checks you can do yourself to ensure your ‘bouncers’ (or elements you use to get results from your website) aren’t killing your business.

Keep Reading – Part 2 is Here