Stop releasing websites that don’t work
Four reasons why A/B testing and QA testing jobs should never end
Icouldn’t wrap my mind around how one web task became a two-week project. But let’s back up so you understand my frustration. I tried to update my email address on one particular website. I’d click on “Account Information” and “Contact Information,” and sigh when the error messages continued to show up. Calling the company resulted in a COVID-19 alert and anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour of elevator music. I tested the website on various browsers on my laptop. Then I tried testing the website on my tablet and smartphone. I even tried the mobile app. No dice. Even worse, whenever I logged in, the company put up an alert that they could not reach me because my email address was outdated. Then I got a letter via snail mail telling me to go the company’s website.
If this were a small mom-and-pop shop, I would’ve been able to write the tech error off as a small business struggling to contact its web designer or web editor. But this was a $1.8 trillion company: Citibank. And even now, after finally getting ahold of a customer service rep, the customer service rep responded with a verbal shrug and said she updated my email address manually. I didn’t hear one word about contacting their tech department.
Big fish. Little fish. Either way, if your website does not work efficiently, you can frustrate a customer so much that (s)he won’t want to do business with you. And there are some web glitches that are entirely too easy to fix before the public even knows about them. Here are four of the easiest ones to resolve on any website right now — whether you’re selling certificates of deposit or iron-on T-shirts.
1. A/B testing should include marketing expectations.
Any company that has a new website or makes continuous changes should always have A/B testers. It’s one of those jobs that should never die. Even if you’re not a tech-savvy entrepreneur, here’s why you need one. I previously worked for a marketing company that had two print and one online magazines. Whenever I called or emailed faculty, students and/or alumni about the publication, there was about a 75 percent chance that the response would be, “When did [insert college here] start this publication? I’ve never heard of it.” Again, I was working for the marketing department — the area that is designed to promote and make a company’s accomplishments more visible to everyone.
Meanwhile, my desk was two cubicles across from over a desk drowning in boxes of old magazines issues — from at least a decade before I was hired. While I could understand new students not knowing what the publication was, it was the alumni (who the magazines were catered to) and long-time faculty that really blew me away. Although the magazine articles were available digitally on the website, the websites were set up so that the publication was either buried in a navigation bar or just had the name of the publication. Unless your publication is so well-known that everyone knows what that is, the average user will ignore that selection option. Simply adding the word “magazine” to the nav bar could’ve done wonders.
I started doing my own survey during the interviews to ask interviewees, “If [insert publication here] had ‘magazine’ or ‘news’ on it, would you click on it?” Every single time, I got a “yes” or a response to move the publication somewhere else more obvious on the homepage. Listen to your readers and users. Web designers and editors know where everything is because they’re working on the website all day. Pay attention to people’s opinions who are looking at it for the first time.
2. Regular QA tests should be run every time updates are made.
Careless web designers do this a lot, and it’s quite annoying to some users. Upgrades and updates are made to buttons and designs, but sometimes the proper channels are not notified ahead of time. So all of a sudden when they click on a button or link that they’ve always clicked on, it no longer works. Going back to the Citibank example, I’ve updated my email address before. I can only assume that someone on the back-end made a new change, which then stopped that button from working.
Customer Service representatives, who are notorious for blaming your devices, don’t know what the changes are. When website changes are made, Customer Service reps and web designers would be better off by talking to each other. Both groups need to know when major web changes will affect their customers. Even now, if a Citibank user tries to use the “Contact Us” option — something else I’ve done many times — to explain the tech error, Citibank made another web change. You can only choose three options from the drop-down menu and the “Send Message” option is grayed out no matter which one you choose. Customer Service reps are wondering why their lines are overloaded with calls for questions that users simply cannot send as web messages. Meanwhile some web designers may not care until someone yells at them to fix it.
3. Reevaluate busy homepages that crowd the purpose of the site.
This image above is one of my favorite pictures from She Bold Stock. It’s colorful. It’s bright. It’s busy. It highlights a bunch of topics I’m a fan of — being a boss, loving coffee, journaling, my ode to candles and clearly I’m into that “make shit happen” motto. You know what else this image is? Busy! I temporarily added this image to my website homepage for a virtual conference announcement and realized it was too complicated for my needs. And that’s my biggest hang-up with lots of websites. They can too easily fall under the umbrella of one big MySpace glitter page and less telling me, “What is the goal of your website and how do I easily access what I need?”
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Imagine if instead of virtual conference calls, I was trying to sell lipstick. You can see the little pink tube at the bottom, but you’d have to get past a lot of visual noise to get there. If your website is so lavish with color and images and pop-ups and auto-play videos that I don’t know what your website is about, I’m leaving. Maybe an online paint store can throw everything on the homepage. But there’s a reason interior designers take their time choosing everything from the custom blinds to the plant in the corner. There needs to be logic in all the eye-catching chaos.
4. Make sure your Customer Service and FAQ options are efficient.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being able to talk to humans. However, big-name companies have an annoying habit of making you type the equivalent of a master’s thesis on your smartphone to get to one when you need to. And when you don’t need to talk to that same blood-flowing, air-breathing human, everything you click on the website results in “Contact Customer Service.” This becomes especially true when you try to cancel anything. Hello, Xfinity!
If your frequently asked questions (FAQs) do not mirror what your customer service representatives answer a million times a day, you need to hire a tech writer to update them. If your homepage doesn’t answer some of those FAQs, you need to reevaluate your homepage navigation bar. If your search engine results in everything but what is in your FAQs, you need to optimize your website. And if you’ve made the website navigation experience so hard to navigate that Customer Service reps must get involved to fix everything that the website should be doing, you need to figure out where your website went wrong.
There are some specific questions and scenarios that are too involved for a website to do. But your website should never involve so many buttons to press and FAQs to filter through to get to a legitimate result. And if you have a “Send Secure Message” option on your website, make sure it actually works. Reverting back to Citibank, the site currently grays out the “Send Message” options and will only allow users to use a drop-down menu to answer three total questions. Anything outside of that requires calling Customer Service. And guess what happens when you do? The automated phone message system encourages users to look at its company website to resolve customer service issues. It’s a hamster wheel of bad web experiences.
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