This post has been moved to my new home on the web www.steve-e.co.uk. The post itself can be found here. 23Musings is going to remain dormant for now and some of its more popular posts will be transferred to the blog at my new site.

My reason for moving and not taking the years of posts with me is the need for a fresh start, 23Musings had been dormant for long enough for me to feel it was time to start my blog from scratch.

Don’t forget to check out my new blog! www.steve-e.co.uk/blog

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Having a poor website has never been excusable, if you want to have a presence online then you need to make it engaging, simple to use and easy to grok (understand). You want to have minimal barriers to conversion in your UI and you need to have easy routes to allow feedback and for your customers to talk to you.

In the past if you did screw up and disappoint a user or customer they’d generally talk to you about it through the usual channels of email or a phone call (if you’d been sensible enough to put a phone number on your website) where you could deal with the customer’s issue as best you could and at least half on your terms.

Now you’re more likely to get talked about in places where you have no control and possibly very little influence as customers vent their frustrations at a poor online experience on various social channels. A new survey by Tealeaf and Harris Interactive shows that the number of users who encounter an issue on a website and then share that experience on blogs and social networks has doubled from 6%-12% of the people they surveyed in the last year. While use of social networks as channels for letting off steam is increasing the same survey shows that the number of people who would try to contact a company through their website or call centre has dropped.

Help I hear you cry, does this mean we’re (brands) losing control of our relationship with our customers? It may well feel like it and any brand who’s experienced the power of crowd opinion on social networks when they screw up without being prepared will tell you it can be a scary experience. And preparation is what it’s all about.

Obviously you need to iron out the kinks in your web experience to try to stop complaints happening in the first place, optimise your customer care processes and make sure you have clear ways to contact you on your website.

If you really want to meet this new threat* head on and be ready to douse the flames before they get too hot, then the best way to prepare yourself for a situation like this happening is to embrace social media and make it a part of your business. Open up, interact and join the conversation so that you’re right at the hub of the discussion about your brand, ready to solve peoples problems, admit your failings and generally provide great customer service through social channels. It’s not just usability (as in making your website or product easier to use), it’s about social or brand usability (as in making your brand sociable, approachable, responsive and interactive).

*Of course this isn't a threat really. It's possibly the best opportunity you 
have ever had to really generate loyalty and brand alignment amongst your users and customers.

This post has been moved to my new home on the web www.steve-e.co.uk. The post itself can be found here. 23Musings is going to remain dormant for now and somke of its more popular posts will be transferred to the blog at my new site.

My reason for moving and not taking the years of posts with me is the need for a fresh start, 23Musings had been dormant for long enough for me to feel it was time to start my blog from scratch.

Don’t forget to check out my new blog! www.steve-e.co.uk/blog

This post has been moved to my new blog and can now be found here.

I’ve blogged a couple of times recently (here and here) about declining levels of customer satisfaction with online travel websites. Now another survey reports their declining further.

Detail is here at Hotelmarketing.com but in a nutshell this seems to suggest that the old model of ‘booking engine only’ websites is losing favour as users want a richer, more immersive and customer focused experience rather than simply a one size fits all approach to buying travel online.

The online travel industry has dropped 1.3% as a whole, Expedia lost 3.8% and now scores 75 (the highest).

The next generation of travel websites can’t be far away, hopefully the advances in technology will allow customer satisfaction to be dramatically improved through the use of advanced usability techniques, customer profiling and tools which enable rather than just sell, sell, sell.

Usability ROI declining

January 23, 2008

So says the usability guru Jakob Nielsen in his latest article.

He says that the returns from usability have lessened in recent times due to the fact that websites just aren’t as bad as they used to be. Big pat on the back for all designers and developers out there but don’t get complacent! Usability is hugely important and should never be underestimated, small tweaks to the user experience can often result in huge returns.

Another reason he gives for slowing ROI is that usability budgets have not grown in line with other budgets and that there still isn’t enough importance placed on usability studies and testing.

Great post from Jakob Nielsen on the dangers of going web 2.0 crazy from a usability point of view!

Highly poingant as we’re implementing a lot of AJAX at the moment. Overkill is deadly and could trash your conversion rate. Keep it minimal, useful, effective (AJAX is great for some things, pointless for others), simple, usable and give clear instructions where needed.

I agree with his pitch on user generated content as well. Pointless if your audience/customers aren’t ready for it or if you have nothing interesting for them to talk about (that said, great in an emotive environment such as online travel if used wisely).