Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Your Customers' Goals

Your Web Pages Should Be Customer Centered

The other day, I was going to be driving into Seattle, and I knew that I'd probably be parking in a specific garage. I wanted to find out where the garage was located, including driving directions if possible, as well as how much I'd be spending to park there. Well, when I found the site, it was beautiful. It had gorgeous pictures of their new parking structure, it included details about when the structure was built and how many cars it could accommodate. It even told me that if I parked there, I'd be close to downtown and pointed to some restaurants that I could eat at while I was there. I found a PDF of a map of the area which had driving directions printed on it.
Nowhere could I find the actual hourly or day rates for the garage.
I found details about how to reserve the garage for my group and how much that would cost. I also found information on how much I could spend if I wanted a monthly pass. Finally, I learned that there are actually two garages, and one is a little cheaper if I want to park my event there.

Think Like a Customer
Web design teams are often housed in the Marketing department, or the copy is written by Marketing. And so a lot of Web pages focus on hundreds of little factoids that might be interesting but don't get the customer what they are looking for or what they came to the site for. In fact, most of the details that were included on the garage's Web site were annoying as I searched longer for the price. They made me think things like "with that many spaces, the price might be lower, but it's a new garage, so it's probably really expensive..."
Sure, it was interesting that the new garage could house millions more cars than the old one could. Yes, it was nice to know that I'd be able to eat while parked there. But all of that information was ancillary to my goals for reading the site. I had two goals, and since I spent 5-10 minutes (probably less, but it felt like that) with my frustration mounting because I couldn't find the answer to one of them, I ended up disgusted with the site and by proxy the company that produced it.

Another example of this type of Marketing grandstanding can often be found on FAQs of products. How many times have you seen on a product FAQ a question like "Why is product x the best product on the market?" Do you really think that people are asking that? It's clearly a marketing vehicle.

What is Your Customer's Goal?

When you're writing a Web page, that should be your first question. "What is the goal of my customer and how will this page solve it?" There might be multiple goals for a site, and how you address them is up to you, but you should understand what your customers are most likely looking for. Some typical goals are:

How do I get to _______?
How much does _______ cost?
What are the features of _______?
Why should I buy _______ instead of _______?
How can I learn how to _______?

If You Are Deliberately Ignoring the Goal - Then Tell Your Customers
Some online retailers don't want to indicate prices as they may vary from location to location. Perhaps the online company doesn't want customers coming to their corporate offices. Etc. There are many valid reasons for why you might not want to post the information that your customers want. But if you're deliberately not posting it, you should tell your customers. That way they won't spend 5 minutes searching for something on your site that doesn't exist.

Once You've Solved the Goal, Then Add Fun Stuff
Once I know how to get to the parking garage and costs $25 per day, then I become interested in the other information. It's when I haven't found what I'm looking for that I get frustrated and angry at the unimportant facts (3 story underground garage with 500 diagonal slots per floor...). And a frustrated or angry customer won't come back again.


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