Web sites are like babies: there are no ugly ones if you listen to the proud parents of the Web site or the baby. But the truth is that, like loving parents, the creators of Web sites are often tempted to ignore their progenys shortcomings. Successful Internet businesses, however, scrutinize their sites from the customers perspective.
Why? You know your site better than anybody because you look at it every day; you cant understand how somebody else might find it confusing. To a first-time customer, however, navigating a new site can be like driving in a new city without a road map.
Try this some time: Ask a small group of people who have never used your site to complete what you consider a relatively simple task, such as searching for a specific item. Youll be surprised by how many wont be able to find the search tool or the checkout button. If customers cant find it, they cant buy it.
Successful e-commerce companies test their sites repeatedly before they go live, bringing in real-world customers (and potential customers) to use them. At Staples, we are fortunate to have a large, diverse work force at our corporate center: associates whose familiarity with e-commerce ranges from nonexistent to expert. We consistently invite these associates to join us in our usability lab, where we can watch them shop our site.
Once an e-commerce site is up and running, the successful business will continuously monitor all avenues of customer feedback: direct comments that are mailed, faxed or phoned in, as well as indirect criticism that is gleaned from usability testing, click-through rates and abandoned shopping cart rates. At Staples.com, customer feedback led us to streamline our registration process, to put our customers virtual shopping cart on the screen at all times and to display search results in an easy-to-read, bulleted list format. The upshot was a more user-friendly site with fewer barriers to purchase.
Putting your customer first from design to execution and on through future upgrades will ensure that youll always be proud of your baby and that its growth will be fueled by increasing numbers of satisfied customers. And thats a beautiful thing for you and your customer.