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Can poor usability increase conversions?


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#1 AbleReach

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 03:28 PM

I just spent an unfulfilling hour on a software manufacturer's site, looking for a way to easily find and compare prices, licensing and services. Because I was really interested I spent a looong time on the site. Because I like the product I didn't abandon my quest; I emailed my questions.

Normally I'd say that if a site does not make it easy to find what users want they're losing opportunities for conversion. On the other hand, I just spent an hour on a site I would have liked to get in and out of in five or ten minutes. I was exposed to information in a range of interesting services I didn't know existed.

If I thought I could find and compare info on those services there's a good chance I'd eventually be back to shop for more than originally considered. However, bad usability does not encourage a good expectation of customer support. I sit at "maybe," decision to be made based on if they respond to my email promptly and with real information.

What is your experience on the tipping point between increasing time on site and frustrating potential customers? What are good candidates for information that should not be too instantly available, or info that should always be a click away?

Elizabeth

Edited by AbleReach, 25 February 2006 - 03:33 PM.


#2 kensplace

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 07:38 PM

I prefer sites that make it easy to find things, Im more likely to revisit.

But if the site is great, apart from say a few things being hard to find, then I still go back, as its a site I like.

I guess some sites may make things deliberately hard to find if they hired the sort of marketing people that do supermarkets, they keep moving their stock around, putting things in different places in different isles, so customers HAVE to stick around longer and search for their daily bread (and pass all the special offers etc in the process)

Lots of people dont even notice, or mind. Personally, I think it stinks, but I have little chance of getting my local supermarket to fire all their marketing people and use common sense......

On the web, I would have thought that the easier it is to get the info you need, the better a site will do, people are always in a rush these days, attention spans seem to be getting shorter all the time and there is plenty of competition out there.

#3 travis

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Posted 25 February 2006 - 08:55 PM

"Can poor usability increase conversions."


You bet.

Take a real world example.

IKEA is one of the world's biggest companies and global brand names.

But once you walk in, there are no exits, so you have to walk 3 km past every product on offer, and the wife always tugs at you to buy something extra.

That place converts.

Edited by travis, 01 March 2006 - 03:47 AM.


#4 Black_Knight

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 12:24 AM

Yup, as RCJordan famously put it: "Ugly sells".

Of course, while poor usability can convert in many ways, other forms of conversion may fail due to poor usability.

Examples:

1. If I run an AdSense driven website, the sooner you prefer the look of a paid ad over my lousy site the sooner I make my cash.

2. If I have a site that provides free info, but also sells the service of us neatly reporting summarising and delivering that info to you, then making it all seem like a lot of work is going to raise conversions.

3. If I want you to buy into my expertise in web design, an unusable site is going to cost me conversions by the ton.

So yes, poor usability can often raise conversions of certain types. It can also often lower credibility, expectations, and so lower other types of conversions to zero.

#5 AbleReach

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 12:26 AM

I suppose the difference with Ikea is knowing that eventually I'll find the exit and have my shopping cart of priced items at the same time. Ikea also has an advantage in that because of its sheer size and variety, continuing to wander will likely result in finding some version of what shoppers thought they were looking for.

I wanted this web site to give me comparison charts linked to more info. Ya know, charts like that would have been an opportunity to show me what else was available while also giving me the info I wanted. I tend to filter quickly by budget and then move on. For someone like me, the site would get more mileage by putting pricing and free trial links at the bottom - making me click on an extended info chart to get to specific pricing might help keep me tempted a little longer.

To keep me clicking, the basic info chart would need to give me a list of USP-type statements, telling me why I should care, without a bland list of qualities.

When wandering through Ikea, shoppers visualize what's on the shelves in use in their own homes. Coordinating items may collect in a shopping cart. Like Ikea, a comparison chart should give me what I need to visualize using the product(s) in my own environment. A click off of a chart may be similar to taking an item off the shelf for a closer look.


Elizabeth

#6 EGOL

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 09:20 AM

Let's consider these two models.....

Site A gets lots of traffic for generic terms. Many people who type in those terms need education about the product or they are simply in the shopping state. A site like that would do well by providing the type of information that you were looking for.

Site B gets lots of traffic for highly targeted terms. Brand and model are the driving keywords. These folks already have a purchase in mind and the site built with blinders for the buyer might convert better. You don't want they to shop and ponder. CLick the buy button!

#7 Black_Knight

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 03:01 PM

Remember that sometimes forcing a user to actually ask is a serious conversion in its own right. The visitor who asks is no longer an anonymous stat in the logs, but suddenly has a name, a voice, and is in contact. From there the sales people simply do their job. :huh:

So in that type of scenario, the trick is to make them trust you have the knowledge, but make them contact you to get it.

Usability would usually suggest just giving away the information as easily as possible, but marketing knows far better in this case.

#8 EGOL

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 03:06 PM

Usability would usually suggest just giving away the information as easily as possible, but marketing knows far better in this case.


That's top info BK. Lots of different models.

#9 dgeary9

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Posted 26 February 2006 - 06:52 PM

I think that the impact usability has on your conversions depends mostly on how easy it would be to find your product/information/service on a more user friendly site. Many IKEA products can't be found elsewhere. Searching for stuff my local grocery has moved takes less time than driving to the grocery store further away (who is probably using the same annoying marketing tactics). However, the web makes switching sites pretty easy in a lot of cases. Unless you are selling something unique, I think that lowering usability is generally bad marketing practice.

One tangetial thought, however. I love IKEA - I don't find it lacks usability at all - it very much supports the way I like to shop (with products that complement each other displayed together, rather than linear departments). I have some anecdotal evidence from a few client sites that would suggest this is generally the way women prefer to shop, and men prefer the linear departments approach (yes, I'm aware this is a vast generalization, but it matches what offline research says).

When I'm in Home Depot, I want nails and hammers beside each other (and I have spent a lot of frustrating time trying to figure out where the heck they have put the nails). Same goes for being on the Home Depot website. When I'm on a software support site, I find they are usually organized in very "linear" fashion, which does not match the way I like to solve problems. Like Elizabeth, I want to be able to compare, drill down to details, be "engaged" emotionally, and I turn to other support channels for help (likely faster than most guys). I have a client that sells complex software to a primarily male audience, and they get a really disproportionate number of support calls from women who got frustrated on the website.

Which is a long winded way to ask, is some of the "poor usability" we experience on sites related to being different than the target market the designers had in mind (or the only one they could think like, sigh...)

#10 rmccarley

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 12:50 PM

Of course it does. Spamers count on this, especially PPC & Affiliates. Frustration with the site will cause you to ho back, close the browser or click an ad. They *count* on this.

#11 inflatemouse

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 03:16 PM

Useablity and efficiency, I think, are being smashed together here. It sounds like Elizabeth found a lot of information she wasn't looking for, but it doesn't sound like she had trouble using the site.

Poor user interface will drive people off in droves. Elizabeth if you were stunted from travelling through the site with no indication that the information was ever available would you even consider further search? No, you would leave. On the other hand if it is easy to get around you stay because you just need to find the "right information"

Home Depot is a prime example for this, it is easy to find anything there. But instead of having a map key they have someone tell you that carpentry hardware is next to power tools. They make it clear that they have what you want they make it easy to get from place to place, but they up sell by making the system non-intuitive so you see other things that you aren't intending to see when you start.

#12 dgeary9

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 04:30 PM

instead of having a map key they have someone tell you that carpentry hardware is next to power tools...


Have you ever tried to ask for help when what you need is "the little dohicky that attaches to the tool-thingy I'm using to refinish a chair?" :D

Same deal with technical support websites. I usually know exactly what isn't working, I struggle with finding the right words to search on to get a good answer. That seems like a usability issue?

#13 inflatemouse

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 06:51 PM

I usually know exactly what isn't working, I struggle with finding the right words to search on to get a good answer.

:)

Well a website can't be expected to read your mind. :D

It sounds like you are describing a "USER-ability" error. I'm sure if you read your manual it will clear up quickly. ;-)

#14 AbleReach

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 07:32 PM

Navigating the web site for basic pricing and licensing info was a royal PIA. Normally, isn't that a cardinal sin? Maybe not, not always.

When it comes to shopping for something specific, I am not usually a browser. I know what interests me, within my budget and knowledge, and I am in and out quickly. Despite rotten usability, I stayed on this site. If certain other vital ingredients had not been missing, they'd have made themselves a loyal customer with more in mind than the original goal.

One set of ingredients was in place. If I had not trusted the company and been interested in the product I did know, I would not have hung around fishing and found info about products I did not know.

My point is, keeping me on that site long enough to find out about what else they had would have been a good outcome, if they hadn't managed to frustrate me in the process. The lack of usability was marked enough to reduce my trust in the company's ability to do customer support after a sale.

Ahh, tactics! These are tactics that can both improve and damage user experience, time on site, user trust and possibly ROI.

I think that calculated use of "bad" usability as an adsense or spammer's tactic is fairly acknowledged.

But, what about making access a little less easy on an ecommerce site for a respected brand?

We've all been frustrated by bad usability. Doing usability badly is playing with fire. However, when less ease of usability is applied really well, in a seamlessly calculated (behavioral?) way, I doubt most users are aware of more than having had a good experience.


Elizabeth

#15 dgeary9

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 09:08 PM

It sounds like you are describing a "USER-ability" error. I'm sure if you read your manual it will clear up quickly. ;-)


ROFL - hammers come with manuals? Who knew??

Here's a concrete example. We have one of those new shuttle pc boxes that stores all our digitized music and photos. DH was at work and I was trying to make it do something new. I knew what I wanted to accomplish (feeding photos from our network to the shuttle pc), but that search got me absolutely nowhere on the support site for our particular brand. It kept insisting I name the part I wanted to connect to. I had two cables - one with green ends, one with blue ends. "blue cable", "cable with blue ends" get exactly no results in their internal search engine. The configuration diagram had no blue or green cables, just technical names. Heck, if I knew that, I wouldn't be looking for help. I was goal oriented, the site was parts oriented (and the user manual, I did try there first :rolleyes: ).

Maybe a "user-ability" issue, but I can't be the only person in the universe who doesn't know what the cable with the green ends is called (or I am, in which case I will crawl back into my shuttle PC challenged hole :P ).

Back to Elizabeth's original issue - they exposed me to a lot of marketing info, but be darned if I felt like buying anything!

#16 DianeV

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Posted 27 February 2006 - 10:22 PM

dgeary9, I'd say that's a usability issue: the inability of the company to think outside of its own view and terminology in order to communicate with, like, consumers of its products.

Bet they get a lot of calls. <grin>

#17 Black_Knight

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 12:02 AM

Useablity and efficiency, I think, are being smashed together here. It sounds like Elizabeth found a lot of information she wasn't looking for, but it doesn't sound like she had trouble using the site.

When you read as many usability reports as most of us do, you soon notice that they always focus around time taken to complete set tasks. Usability and efficiency go hand in hand. Are you perhaps thinking of Accessibility?

#18 AbleReach

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 12:09 AM

LOL Diane - call?

That day I'd emailed a few specific questions: what is the cost of item a, b and c? Is there an extra fee to add service 1 or 2?

Because I didn't get an autoresponder email immediately (emails which are often linked to the same ineffective FAQ,) I wondered if a real person might attempt an answer. Today I got the standard brief email: For more information please see our web site or call the sales team.

Do you think I'm going to call? Heh.

Elizabeth

#19 AbleReach

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 12:18 AM

When you read as many usability reports as most of us do, you soon notice that they always focus around time taken to complete set tasks.

Good point.

Until this experience I hadn't thought through that speed may not be the most useful measurement, for both user and web site. Live and learn.
:)

#20 rmccarley

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 12:53 PM

dgeary9, I'd say that's a usability issue: the inability of the company to think outside of its own view and terminology in order to communicate with, like, consumers of its products.


That may be the most valuable post in this thread. And it carries over to other areas as well.

For example, for all of you non Refugee regulars, I recently found out I was going to be a dad. :thumbup_baby: I've been working on getting things straitened out with the mum as we have been broken up for several months. The problem was communication - we were so caught up in our jargon we weren't saying what the other person could hear.

I think this applies to a lot of our clients as well. When you start spouting off about W3C standards, browser support, usability, SEO, whitespace, etc. you most often get blank stares (I do anyway).

Don't use the jargon, say what it means.

"Usability features include X, Y and Z and help get a greater return on your site with increased sales. We can take this a step further to ensure support for the disabled which would make sure visually impaired people can use the site and could prevent a lawsuit down the line."

Say "sales" not "conversions". And every business owner understands the word "lawsuit". :D

#21 inflatemouse

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 08:42 PM

Are you perhaps thinking of Accessibility?



Perhaps I am.

Here is a metaphor to describe what I mean: A universal remote can control your tv and your radio tuner, but only if I have a tv and radio tuner.

I see usability as being a straight forward interface where the user can confidently say "I know what tools I have to work with"

A straight forward interface =/= able to get the job done.

No matter how much information you have available you can't share it if no one can figure out where it is. In the end it is better to have someone say "I looked at everything and it wasn't there" (you can fix this quick, just add it in) than to have them say "I can't find anything at all" (that's a huge can of worms)

What do you mean by Accessibility?

#22 projectphp

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Posted 28 February 2006 - 09:30 PM

Accessibility is about making a site easy to use for those people who can't see or can't see perfectly.

Home Depot is a prime example for this, it is easy to find anything there. But instead of having a map key they have someone tell you that carpentry hardware is next to power tools. They make it clear that they have what you want they make it easy to get from place to place, but they up sell by making the system non-intuitive so you see other things that you aren't intending to see when you start.

That is a tactic that grocery stores use. They try to find the balance between telling you what is in an aisle, and making it so obtuse you are forced to walk down the aisle "just in case".

Having a non-intuitive, non-standard but easy to use design may actually be advantageous. Really advantageous. I wonder if this is the future? Standaradisation is all good and well, but I wonder if there aren't better methods...

#23 AbleReach

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Posted 03 March 2006 - 04:06 PM

Yesterday I was at Home Depot looking for shelf brackets. I knew exactly what bracket I wanted, and exactly where it was last time. They'd re-arranged their shelving section. The bracket I wanted wasn't all the way across the store. The section was just re-organized, items on outer shelves exchanged for what had been buried within.

Because I knew I'd find what I wanted if I kept looking and the store's layout is not chaotic, I kept looking and found what I wanted plus a little more. Because I could easily (the usability element) achieve my goals, this blend of passive and proactive customer service was helpful to me, without involvement of a live salesperson.

My webhead alarm sounded: online, most of the time there is no live salesperson. Can I "test" web usability concepts by how I relate to the organization of brick-and-mortar stores?

In the web world, product re-arrangement is parallel to a directory page containing an article about an item of interest that is later moved to join similar content. The original article is replaced by some other feature, perhaps exploring a different facet of the same general topic. A deep link to the original article (& its category?) remains on the directory page. Because content has changed, viewers are forced (encouraged?) to read in order to find what they want.

If usability is good, a little window shopping along the way can help both site and user. Maybe the tipping point is if links are descriptive, placed where expected and eventually lead to what we need (and more) in an unfrustrating way - without eroding trust and thus increasing abandonment.

Users should feel educated, not tricked. Usability's effect on updated or re-shuffled content should broaden user interest, not cause confusion or dilute trust.

Edited by AbleReach, 03 March 2006 - 04:33 PM.


#24 rmccarley

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Posted 03 March 2006 - 05:27 PM

Elizabeth - there are a couple solutions in use for that. One is the text messaging built in for "live" support at some sites. Sometimes that works great, sometimes not. Usually when I need that kind of help it's 3AM and they have nobody manning the station.

The other method is a classic and you just don't see it much any more...

The "what's new" page!

I've always tried to keep this rolling through home page updates that let the viewer know what's going on and why it may be important to them. It's just marketing. And then it turned out to be good usability as well. Lately, I've been using RSS feeds to enhance this even further and carry the message out beyond my borders.



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