Don’t make me …

I am driven wild by websites that force you to do things you don’t want to or haven’t time to do. No wonder so many websites fail. You want to buy; they want to sell, but they don’t take the trouble to make it easy for you.

For example, I wanted to buy some sheet music. I went to the publishers’ website and was required to register in order to buy. Why? To make it more convenient, they said. Well, not for me, for one piece of music, and I don’t want to give my details to any more people than is absolutely necessary.

Result: I went to another website that didn’t require registration and the publishers lost a sale.

My former car insurance company asked me to complete a questionnaire online. It’s my “former” car insurance company because it doubled my premium and I found a cheaper option. The questionnaire was well designed and easy to use, until it got to questions about my new policy. These questions would have required me to dig the new policy out of a drawer and had to be answered before I could move on to the next page.

Result: either an aborted questionnaire or wrong information because I refused to spend time looking it up.

I wanted to buy a ticket for a short train journey from a small station near me in Oxfordshire. Yet again, the website required me to register, with not just an email address and password, but all sorts of contact details. I reluctantly filled in the form, only to discover at the next stage that I couldn’t buy the ticket online anyway because the station didn’t have a ticket-dispensing machine.

Result: a total waste of time.

What has all this to do with writing? Good writing is writing that considers its readers. It doesn’t waste their time; it makes life easy for them. Websites that are primarily interested in what suits their marketing departments, or can’t be bothered to think what life is like for their users, deserve to fail. Considerate websites offer users the option to do what suits them and are likely to be more successful.

If you’d like evidence of how much websites may be losing by making people register, have a look at Jared Spool’s article The $300 million button.

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