The Insighter

May 2011

View all articles on our new site

Neo Insight's e-newsletter on Customer Experience topics and techniques.

We invite you to subscribe to our monthly

In this issue

Reduce web pages to improve service

Are your customers or employees drowning in website content? Are they having trouble doing what they came to the website to do? Unbridled and poorly managed content proliferation is one of the biggest risks of our digital age.

Many of your customers are already drowning in data. Your web content could be adding to this problem if it is not laser-focused on your visitors' top tasks. Too much focus on "tiny tasks" will inundate your customers, hinder them from completing critical tasks, lower your service level, and decrease sales.

According to Google there were 5 exabytes of internet data in 2002. By 2009 that had exploded to 281 exabytes, a growth of 5600%. For those of us who have just grasped the concept of a terabyte, 1 exabyte is enough data to fill 1 million terabyte drives. And this is just the content that Google indexes.

When we include all forms of digital data the numbers are staggering. A recent IDC research article on the Digital Universe estimates that the amount of data created globally in 2010 surpassed 1 zettabyte  or 1,000 exabytes.

As companies wrestle with new ways of storing, managing and analyzing this volume of data we need to understand the impact on the people who are being inundated by this data tsunami.

On many websites, the “tiny task” content overwhelms the “top task” content so much that people have difficulty doing what they came to the website to do. The signal is lost in the noise. There are too many pages, too many choices on landing pages, and too much information on detail pages. People scan quickly. When they can’t see what they want or need, they leave. Or, they head down the wrong path and get lost.

Many websites become like this Wenger product, a Swiss Army Knife on steroids.

Swiss Army Knife with 141 tools

Imagine trying to carry this around, quickly finding the tool you want to use, using the tool with all the other tools in your way, etc. And, for the typical user, how often do you really need a “chain rivet setter” or “Shortix laboratory key”. The “tiny tasks” are hindering the frequent and critical tasks. (NOTE: This is an actual knife you can buy).

We need to change our strategy for dealing with web content. Although it is increasingly easy to produce and propagate content, we need to find ways to tame it. Every link, word, or graphic that is added makes the top tasks more difficult to find and do. The more content competing for our limited attention, the more the critical content becomes hidden and ineffectual.

When we start examining many of our clients’ websites we quickly discover a lot of content that is out-of-date, irrelevant, or overly verbose. On some larger websites, up to 30% of the content may have never been accessed in the last year. This can cause major delays to visitors when these pages show up in navigational links or search results. This extraneous content constitutes an amazing amount of camouflage that visitors have to overcome and a lot of wasted time and effort managing content that never gets used.

The challenge is:

  • to restrict content to only that which is relevant to the current task and context
  • to ensure the top tasks are not hidden by the tiny tasks, and
  • to ensure a smooth workflow that is not distracted by a bunch of competing content and calls to action.

Many of our clients are significantly improving the effectiveness and maintenance of their web content by drastically reducing the amount of it on their websites – really focusing in on managing their customer’s ability to quickly and easily complete their top tasks. A Top Task Management approach helps them avoid the tsunami of tiny tasks.

Two great examples of this approach come from our Customer Carewords partnership.

  1. The City of Liverpool website was reduced in size from 4000 down to 700 pages and the City has received a very positive response from its citizens. Although several staff members have complained that their content is no longer available, complaints from City visitors are virtually non-existent.
  2. Our partners at Netlife Research in Norway recently completed some work with Telenor, a leading provider of mobile communications. Taking an aggressive task-based approach, Telenor was able to reduce the mobile broadband section of their website from 2000 to 400 pages. Stripping out this huge number of pages reduced the number of emails to customer service by 40% and increased sales by 80%.

Removing 4 out of every 5 pages increased one area of sales by 80%

The Customer Carewords process has been developed to quickly identify the top tasks on your website and to manage your website’s evolution by measuring website success based on your customers’ ability to quickly and easily complete their top tasks.

Learn more about Top Task Management. Email us or call us at 613 271-3001 if you would like a free consultation about our Top Task Management strategic services.

Back to Top

The missing link: Content teasers that lead to frustration

The power of the web is the hyperlink. But, too often web pages describe information or capabilities without actually helping visitors find or do what is being described. When this happens in testing, that page content becomes a teaser that frustrates the visitor from taking action.

Many clients don’t even realize they are engaging in this behaviour. It may seem natural to describe some content and provide links somewhere else. But best practices are different for writing documents versus writing an effective landing page.

On the web, people are impatient. They want immediate access. They don’t want to waste time. They get frustrated when they can see the content they want but it is not linked. It’s basically like saying “Hey, we’ve got great content but we’re not going to tell you where it is”.

Here are a few examples gleaned from some of the expert reviews, usability tests, or comparative usability evaluations that we’ve conducted. These are typical of the type of teaser content we often discover. And, they are more common than you may think.

Teaser 1: List available programs but don’t help people find them

List of programs not linked

Teaser 2: Tell people about available tools but make visitors hunt for them

List of tools not linked

Teaser 3: Specify a form but don’t provide a way to access it

Description of form but no link to it

Teaser 4: Inform visitors of updated policies but don’t link to them

Alert to new policies but no links

Teaser 5: Tell people a document is available online but don’t say where

Guide available online but no link to it

Teaser 6: Provide an unlinked URL so visitors have to re-type or cut-and-paste

URL provided but not linked

Teaser 7: List product offerings but don’t link to the details

Banner listing products but no links to them

We need to treat our customers better. We need to stop teasing them, and offer a helping hand. We need to understand the task they came to do, and help them do it. We need to stop writing descriptive text about content and capabilities, and instead help people immediately access and do.

Help your customers DO, not hunt! You’ll be glad you did.

Back to Top

Top Neo tweets

  • The internet contributes 20% to GDP. So why do web teams lack power, respect and resources? @gerrymcgovern:
  • More great research by Tullis on mistakes with images described in
  • Dr. Flint is using a Star Wars analogy. Great synergy with our Link Like Yoda usability story
  • @arieldesign @userfocus - thanks for the input - i updated the word cloud of Biggest UX challenges -
  • Distracted Workers Costing Companies Millions: (e-mail, social media, txt msg, IM, interruptions...):

Quote of the month

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”.

Albert Einstein

If you have any comments on The Insighter, or ideas on usability topics you'd like to send us an email.

We invite you to subscribe to our monthly

  Home   About Us   Services   Case Studies   Training   Teamworks