Consumers to E-Commerce Sites: Simplify or We Walk

Opinion: Ziff Davis Internet's Evan Schuman warns e-commerce companies that they have to simplify. A new survey is giving evidence that complexity repels consumers. So has every other survey since the Web was born. Now will someone listen?

Corporate Web sites are becoming bloated bandwidth hogs, which should surprise absolutely no one in high tech. But a recent survey is proving that the reckless use of multimedia, animation, JavaScript and other impressive but non-informational offerings is starting to have a negative impact on site traffic.

The site visitors pain from overdesigned or overprogrammed sites—those being two different but equally sinful efforts—is more than mere time-wasting. It can be annoying and distracting, and the fluff can literally make it much more difficult for the site attendee to actually get the information that would allow him/her to make a purchase.

Thats among the findings from an extensive survey analysis by the team reporting to Terry Golesworthy, president of the Customer Respect Group, an Ipswich, Mass.-based research/consulting firm.

The fact that no marketing department ever considered calling itself the Customer Respect Group truly does light-years about this research. When did e-commerce and brochure sites start feeling disdain for their prospects and customers? If theyre not guilty of disdainful feelings, at the very least they are guilty of reckless indifference to how customers feel and what their needs are. In a word, they are treating those customers with a lack of respect.

/zimages/1/28571.gifeBay is now encouraging its small-business customers to create their own Web sites. Why is the auction empire doing this, and will it help? To find out, click here.

For example, Golesworthys survey found that—again, no surprise—the size of the average Web page has been sharply increasing every year, despite the fact that customer connection speeds are relatively consistent.

Ever since a few years ago when analog modems (aka dial-up) hit their theoretical maximum 56K speed (which, of course, means a true maximum speed in the mid-to-upper 40s), dial-up users throughput have been capped. Broadband speeds have also been fairly well-capped, although at a dramatically faster speed. The only overall speed increase has been the rapid transition of analog users to broadband, but the average speed of the two approaches (dial-up and broadband) have been fairly static.

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