This coming Sunday, May 10, is Mother’s Day in America and mothers across the land will be receiving flowers and candy and visits from their kids.
Some of those kids have grown up and left home. Some of them have started online companies. But how many of those “kids” will think to ask Mom for her opinion of the company web site?
I respectfully suggest that you ask her soon, maybe this Mother’s Day. The answers may surprise you. They could even enrich you, financially as well emotionally. And here’s why: Chances are your mother does not see the world quite the same way you do. And that can be a good thing. Most companies with an online presence–and these days that is most companies–are targeting a particular audience. There’s a natural tendency for those of us who are responsible for such web sites to assume a. we know our audience, b. we are speaking clearly to all members of that audience. Sometimes we are wrong.
That’s where Mom comes in, or in some cases, Mum. For example, within a few hours of this blog post being published I will get an email from my Mum to let me know if a. there are any typos, and b. there is anything I’ve said that isn’t clearly expressed. This is not because the blog post is about Mother’s Day. My Mum does this for all my blog posts (besides, my Mum’s in England, where they celebrate Mothering Sunday in March, not Mother’s Day in May).
I am very grateful for these emails because I have learned–sometimes the hard way–that I cannot copy edit my own writing. I’m pretty sure the same is true for most people and for most forms of communication, including web sites, whether they be brochure-ware or online stores. For example, what seems obvious and logical to you when you’re navigating your own online store may strike someone else as obscure and illogical. Consider the case of the $300 million button, described in detail in this article by Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering.
I’m sure most of us have encountered this scenario: You’re shopping online and find just what you’re looking for in a store from which you have not purchased before. You place the item in your basket and click “Checkout.” You are then presented with a request to register with the site to “simplify purchasing on your next visit.”
Personally, it seems like I encounter such requests when I’m shopping for something I expect to purchase just once. I feel like saying “Just take my card number so I get on with my life.” But I usually submit to the registration process, however, some people react differently. They don’t submit. They abandon their cart and shop somewhere else. The result can be a large chunk of lost revenue. Or it could be lost leads, or mindshare, or whatever your site is seeking to achieve.
And that’s where mothers can come in handy. Have your Mom shop at your store or execute whatever conversion you are looking for on your site. Of course, it’s unreasonable to expect every website to serve “every kind of people” but ask your Mom what she thought and tell her not to spare your feelings. I bet you’ll get some useful insights, maybe even smooth out some multi-million dollar bumps in the road.
Depending on your mother’s willingness to indulge her kids, you might even use her proactively. For example, we’ve been thinking of adding a survey form to our web site. So I set up a test using a popular survey product and asked my mother to try it out. Her feedback? “The registration process was too complicated” and “the captcha was very annoying–I would have given up.” That’s valuable input.
I’m not saying mothers are a substitute for focus groups or A/B testing or careful analysis of your behavioral metrics. And it may well turn out that the key to a universally appealing website is extensive personalization. Nevertheless, in addition to all the other things they do for us, mothers can be a valuable source of sanity checks and informal user interface testing, not to mention copy editing and hugs. Happy Mother’s Day!
P.S. Have you got a “Mom-helped-my-online-business” story? We’d love to hear it.