UX isn’t Fair

This is it. All good things come to an end. The final in the UX series. I promised you all a good send-off … And I’ll fail to deliver, but will try to have fun along the way! No time for tears. And there might be some.

So, the story I’ve been teasing you about for a while now – ‘when UX isn’t fair’.

I bought a bush online (I know, right?) last year. It wasn’t for me. I don’t want to relive that experience again. The site could have promised me the most magnificent specimen in an upsell, and I wouldn’t have cared a jot. I just wanted to buy it and get out of there.

This is how it broke down. I needed to buy a hedge for the front garden, because garden centres annoy me, I don’t have patience to plant some seeds and wait 50 years for something to only reach my kneecaps, and a neighbour’s dog keeps walking on our grass, like he owns the place.

I spent longer carefully thinking what to type into Google to avoid any NSFW images than it took to pick my new supplier. My search term was safe enough, a few sites looked to be bona-fide of the horticultural type from their descriptions. Clicked the first one, looks of pics of green leaves, not a Brazilian in sight. We’re good to go.

So, this site. Let’s call it ‘Jim’s Garden Bushes’. ‘Online’. (‘.bush’). I was looking for the bare essentials – a way to search and see some types of bushes, and a picture of what I wanted to buy. A good price, obviously. Some text without major spelling mistakes (because in my head all Russian Mafia types looking to steal my credit card — and who go to the hassle of setting up fake local garden centre websites will, of course, not bother to use a spell-checker and get a lot of words wrong. That’s my logic for some reason). And then a payment system through PayPal so I don’t need to linger on the payment page and go through the ‘is it worth the risk to trust these random people with my life savings?’ drama.

All the boxes were ticked. Did the Peter Kay ‘booked it’ thing. Went back to watching videos of cats, or whatever it is I should have been doing.

At the same time, I’m sure a massive bush fan was browsing the little plants, comparing leaf spans, and adding their email address to the weekly newsletter.

Analytics would have predicted I was a one-time buyer – pushed along the river in my purchase by a pretty picture and a price, not much time on a page, the elusive Guest checkout and all attempts to ask for a membership password ignored.

The other guy – the random bush fetishist; he would have devoured the text on every page (spelling mistakes et al), carefully checking that exhibit A is in fact a fornicus horcruxulus, read all the terms and fine print. Ticked all the triple negative ‘please do not tick this box if you do not wish to not hear from us ever again’ mail boxes (or not ticked it? I never know). Maybe saved his card details in checkout – the ultimate sign that you’ve snared a whale.

The stats don’t lie – we both bought from Jim (or Vladimir). Jim’s happy, can go and plant more seeds now. If he hired a UX team, they’d get a massive pat on the back, told to keep up the good work. 100% conversion rate success. 2 from 2.

But what if it was the average ratio, maybe less than 1% conversion. And what if the bush fetishist was just that, and after he got his jollies off he quit on the checkout page – leaving me as the sole site conversion success in that block.

Jim would still be happy – he’s on target. Ah, but is he? No. It was random. It was dumb luck, in his favour. If anything, praise the SEO team (good effort Jim’s SEO team, by the way). I wasn’t ‘wowed’ by the UX. I know my way around a site, even a bad one. Maybe it WAS a ploy – a badly designed site, so I assume he has low overheads because he cultivates the best or keeps costs down. Maybe. Very cunning, Jim.

Thing is, the site was a success. I checked out. Sometimes, for all our research workshops, questionnaires, industry leading modules and subliminal colour choices, it won’t make a difference to some buyers. UX isn’t always fair. You’ll never find a ‘one size fits all’ solution for all your buyers. We can get caught up looking for perfect conversion rates, and we need to cut ourselves some slack.

‘Woah, you’re saying what we do is worthless?!’ Dude, calm down, not at all. (Only some of the time)

For e-commerce site owner noobs (careful spell check on that word) like Jim and his cheap as dirt site, it’s all about the price, how quick he can deliver it, and the fact the text doesn’t say he is a serial killer. On weekdays anyway.

He’d never hire someone to look at his UX anyway. Hey, who knows, if he did I might have bought more! Maybe I’d be that bush fetishist right now! Rip the carpet out of the house and just have soil and hedges everywhere like a crazy person. (Would be eco-friendly though…)

Where we come into our own, is convincing buyers to ditch the cheap and cheerful, not take the risk, and instead go for the trusted national retailer. Our task is to massage their eyeballs, make the experience a joy. Want to pay more for super-super-quick delivery? Sure, no problem. Oh, and VAT was never included? Not your fault, I’m happy to pay 20% more than I thought. Keep my credit card details so it’s easier to use you guys again? Ah, go on, go on.

What’s my point? Sometimes we need to cut ourselves some slack. For all our hard work, dodgy rival firm #1 will always try to randomly undercut the market one week, or Dave from the content team will tag the wrong image to the wrong product description. We can drive traffic and do our best to deliver sales on a plate, but if we’re just judged by conversions (which is happening more and more), then it isn’t always fair. Sometimes we need to accept it, chalk it off to a bad week, and start again. But follow your gut, keep doing what you know *should* work, trust your focus groups and it’ll come good in the end.

Or there’s always work in the online Bush world … I hear it’s a ‘growing’ market. No? Too soon? How do trees get on the internet? … They log in! Ok, I’ll stop there.

*Want to know how the story ends? Well, ‘Jim’ delivered the hedge late. We missed the delivery. It got bounced around a few times and the package left wrapped in air-tight plastic in a dry warehouse for a long week. When we finally got our hands on them … these ‘miracle’ saplings were literally just little twigs (no roots or anything). I put them in the ground anyway. One winter later, half are dead, the other ones are no bigger. It looks like a creepy graveyard of tiny little trees.

Should have just ordered direct from Russia.

Jordan Taylor has been developing websites since he started using Dreamweaver way back when it was in version 3 (yes, that far back) and everyone loved tables. He has worked on UX and Front End projects for many global ecommerce projects including Gucci.com, Superdrug and Dr Martens (and a few others where the UX management was not so good!). He is currently a UX Architect on a major SaaS development project, and the lead on an NDA-driven Front End only team of stealthy ninjas for high end Hybris and Demandware projects, called Rapid Commerce.

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