Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Assumptions make your customers feel like asses

HTML5 is officially feature complete.  Meaning that while HTML5 won't be the new standard until 2014, developers, browsers, and companies can begin preparing for its arrival.  HTML5 brings with it native support for complex design elements and Flash-like functionality.  This means we will see ever more "advanced" and innovative websites like, my personal favorite, Ben the Body Guard.  (If you are new to the site, you should scroll down.  The arrow keys work best.)

My first time to the Ben the Body Guard website was prompted by a link from a friend exclaiming how cool this site was.  After clicking on the link and staring at the top of the page for a few seconds, I began to wonder what was so "cool" about a splash page.  Only then did a little helpful tip pop up telling me to scroll down.

Of all the people in the world, I feel like I should have known to scroll.  My point is, you can't assume that your website's visitors know what to do next, no matter how simple or obvious the next step is.

I just read your "services" page, now what?  Should I call you?  Or pick one of the 15 links in your navigation?  What if I'm not ready to buy?  Maybe another site will have answers for me.

E-commerce sites generally do a good job with this.  Add to Cart, Checkout, Continue Shopping.  Every page has a clear next step and when you're ready to checkout, there is a helpful progress bar that shows you how many more forms you have to fill out before you are done.  Professional service companies generally do a poor job.

Tell your visitors what to do next.  Don't assume they will figure it out on their own.  Without the tip to scroll, I would have left the Ben the Body Guard website thinking it was a simple one page site and that my friend had interesting taste in websites.