Respect Your Audience

A few weeks back, when I was researching my talk for the Aim Conference on giving designers appropriate feedback, I found a lot of examples of clients asking for simple things to be buried to make it more difficult for the user. I’ve heard this plenty from potential clients, though thankfully the examples have been few and far between this past decade. This is just about the most disrespectful thing you can do as the provider of a website, whether it be corporate or otherwise.

I just sat through the real life equivalent: the elementary school music and dance recital. Although my kids go to/will go to public school, my two oldest have been in a pre-primary program before they started their ‘real’ school career. This program is provided by a local private school, and it’s fantastic. The school focuses on the arts, and there are dance classes held after school (although this isn’t included with their tuition). Both of my daughters have loved it.

However, all is not well in dance land. For one thing, the recital is held in an auditorium over 30 minutes from the community where the school (and the families) are located. So, parents were forced to drive to a one-to-two hour practice this morning, followed by a two hour standby, then an hour wait in the lobby and then a TWO HOUR performance.

Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone wants to see their kids perform. We may not want to sit through the other kids’ stuff (unless we know them), but we’re cool with the watching of our children. It’s an important experience for them, and fun for us. But, the fact of the matter is, there is no reason that this performance couldn’t have been tighter and lasted no more than an hour. Everyone in the audience was bored to tears by the end of the first hour. Each kid in the show was scheduled at least three times and these were staggered across the duration of the performance. Why not put tighten the entire thing into a solid one hour, well-rehearsed show? If it was tighter, no one would have been looking at their watches, toddlers wouldn’t be crying and whining, and the applause at the end would have been more than just polite. We would have been left wanting more, and we would have been excited over what we had just seen, not simply exhausted. Instead of making an hour of great entertainment, they made a long drawn out event that people felt compelled to experience, but didn’t want to.

This really is a metaphor for the average corporate website: many don’t make it easy to find the stuff the audience wants. Put the product, services and contact info up front and make it easy to find so that people don’t get frustrated. Make it so that your goals with the site are clear. If your objective is to have users call or email once they’ve decided they want to follow up, put that right where they can see it, and put it on every page.

Does your website respect its visitors? Are its goals clearly defined?

What experiences have you had with other websites that made you think the site owners didn’t respect your time?

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