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Chapter 10. Usability as common courtesy... > Things that diminish goodwill

Things that diminish goodwill

Here are a few of the things that tend to make users feel like the people publishing a site don’t have their best interests at heart:

Hiding information that I want. The most common things to hide are customer support phone numbers, shipping rates, and prices.

The whole point of hiding support phone numbers is to try to keep users from calling, because each call costs money. The usual effect is to diminish goodwill and ensure that they’ll be even more annoyed when they do find the number and call. On the other hand, if the 800 number is in plain sight—perhaps even on every page—somehow knowing that they can call if they want to is often enough to keep people looking for the information on the site longer, increasing the chances that they’ll solve the problem themselves. Some sites hide pricing information in hopes of getting users so far into the process that they’ll feel vested in it by the time they experience the “sticker shock.” My favorite example is Web sites for wireless access in public places like airports. Having seen a “Wireless access available!” sign and knowing that it’s free at some airports, you open up your laptop, find a signal, and try to connect. But then you have to scan, read, and click your way through three pages, following links like “Wireless Access” and “Click here to connect” before you get to a page that even hints at what it might cost you. It feels like an old phone sales tactic: If they can just keep you on the line long enough and keep throwing more of their marketing pitch at you, maybe they can convince you along the way.

Punishing me for not doing things your way. I should never have to think about formatting data: whether or not to put dashes in my Social Security number, spaces in my credit card number, or parentheses in my phone number. Many sites perversely insist on no spaces in credit card numbers, when the spaces actually make it much easier to get the number right. Don’t make me jump through hoops just because you don’t want to write a little bit of code.

Asking me for information you don’t really need. Most users are very skeptical of requests for personal information, and find it annoying if a site asks for more than what’s needed for the task at hand.

Shucking and jiving me. We’re always on the lookout for faux sincerity, and disingenuous attempts to convince me that you care about me can be particularly annoying. Think about what goes through your head every time you hear “Your call is important to us.”

Putting sizzle in my way. Having to wait through a long Flash intro, or wade through pages bloated with feel-good marketing photos makes it clear that you don’t understand—or care—that I’m in a hurry.

Your site looks amateurish. You can lose goodwill if your site looks sloppy, disorganized, or unprofessional, like no effort has gone into making it presentable.

Note that while people love to make comments about the appearance of sites—especially about whether they like the colors—almost no one is going to leave a site just because it doesn’t look great. (I tell people to ignore all comments that users make about colors during a user test, unless three out of four people use a word like “puke” to describe the color scheme. Then it’s worth rethinking.[2])

[2] This actually happened once during a round of testing I facilitated. We changed the color.


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