Usability as a Marketing Tool | January 27, 2009
Despite being 2009, one of the biggest complaints I hear from people when describing their online activities is how difficult websites are to use. People get amazingly frustrated when they’re trying to do something seemingly simple and the website continuously gets in the way. It’s almost as though the people designing or commissioning the website haven’t used it themselves. For most consumers this idea seems incredible, but sadly it’s largely still the case.
Very few design agencies think about how a website is going to be used, obsessing instead on what it looks like or how it’s put together. This obsession also filters through to the people commissioning the website as it’s much easier to criticise something based on looks or features than usability.
You can understand this attitude from sites that don’t play a big role in the fortunes of the company. However it rarely seems to matter if the site is a brochureware site or the main way people do business with the company.
Over the last few years we’ve seen a proliferation of online comparison services that aim to help you get the best deal on anything from the flat panel TV you’ve been lusting over to your home insurance. The whole goal of these sites it make it easy for people to compare different options and then switch providers, so it’s amazing how badly put together they all are. While they may be technically impressive, they provide the same level of experience you would have expected 5-10 years ago.
So during the self imposed tellyfest that is Christmas, I was impressed to see a series of adverts from confused.com focussing on the usability of the site. The ad was gloriously simple. Just a collection of presumably real customers extolling the virtues of the new website and how easy it was to use. Now I may be wrong (i often am) but I don’t remember seeing any TV ads that actually sell the usability of the site as a feature. Instead they normally focus on features like the number of sites they check. Either that or they get some burke dressed up in a nautical outfit shouting at you like some deranged loon outside a sailors mission. Like that’s where I go for financial advice!
It’s only a small thing but I’d love more pure-play companies to stop selling their services through traditional means and start seeing usability as a differentiator and a marketing tool. Although the fact that they can means there are a hell of a lot of unusable websites out there, which is a worry.
Posted at January 27, 2009 4:03 PM