Thursday, October 11, 2007

Know your user--
Man, I hate to rag on my own organizations, but I have had some odd user experiences with communications from organizations that are for and by technical communicators.

Two that involve STC:
  • At the local STC level, I wanted to submit an application to the publications competition.
  • At the society level I wanted to sign up for a webinar.
In both of these experiences, to make my final decision, I wanted one small piece of information: The price! Couldn't be found.

In another situation, I am on a volunteer committee for a technical communication advisory board, and we are to have a dinner meeting. As directions, I've been given a satellite picture with an arrow pointing at what appears to be warehouse and a description of the restaurant's ethnicity. I've requested a name and address but I'm told I can't miss it. Well, they have obviously never driven anywhere with me! If anyone can miss it, trust me, I'm your guy.

I'm sure in all these instances, the answer is "If you had only gone further in the process (i.e. try to register, or actually drive to where the satellite picture is showing you) the answer would have been obvious." My point is that I was uncomfortable going further without that information, i.e. sending in a registration not knowing how much it would be or driving through rush hour Atlanta traffic without knowing the name and address of the restaurant I was looking for.

The missing user analysis pattern here is simple, and it is one that is critical to user adoption:
  1. What action am I asking the user to take?
  2. What information will the user want before committing to that action?

If you're selling something, the answer to step 2 is the price.

If you're asking me to meet you for dinner, the answer is the name and address of the restaurant.

The mistake is a global one I see happening in lots of design: When they get there it will be clear.

The problem is that many will never get there because they will not try unless they get that information first.


John Douglass said...

Amazing, to what lengths a motivated user will go. Glad you made it!

Mike Hughes said...

If all web sites had a margarita waiting on the other side of registration, I'm sure the adoption rate would be higher.