We’ve been writing this blog for long enough, and it’s time to dole out some secrets.
I struggle in malls.
It’s not because my dashing good looks are bringing throngs of new fans chasing me from store to store.
But the same things happen, whether I am at Walmart or Shoppers’ Drug Mart.
I get shocks. All the time. If I walk along tile floors, regardless what I wear, I get shocks whenever my hands near a metal surface. The surface might be touching the ground, it might be elevated, it doesn’t matter. Heck, the metal could be beneath rubber, I still get shocks. And sometimes, they can be painful (and bright).
How does it happen? Friction. I blame the friction for the days I wander through the aisles and hallways hoping for a positive experience, but getting nothing but the opposite. Instead I build a daylong static charge that releases in small, shocky increments.
I never want to touch any surfaces, people’s hands, products or even pocket change (don’t worry, I know it doesn’t conduct much electricity). The friction has became such a distraction that I can’t escape it. I often go home frustrated and without anything I was planning to buy.
The Truth About Website Friction
Online sales experiences are remarkably similar. No, people may not be shocked away from website or subscription forms in an embarrassing display of light and awe. But in web content and web usability, friction is a reality for visitors. Inconsistencies, like rough surfaces, increase friction. Friction creates static in potential buyers’ minds. Static breeds skepticism, and prevents people from clicking forward.
What are possible inconsistencies that cause friction?
1) Your visitors’ mindset and the thoughts that enter their minds should be the source of all your creative decisions. When they are not, these cast subtle negative cues:
- Perhaps your benefits are not made clear enough, or they are not close enough to the top of the page for people to see.
- Perhaps there isn’t enough information directed at reducing your readers’ price objections.
- Worse, they may not see how they can get the return on the investment by going with your product/service.
Each of these issues can create a climate for your buyers’ mindset, and these are either working for you, or they are working against you. It’s up to you (with people like us) to find out what parts might be doing that and what parts need to be kept.
2) Your buyers’ experience may seem a more difficult element to measure, but it is no less important as a way to reduce friction. The quality of your products and the experience of your staff has no bearing if visitors can’t learn what they want when they want it. Frustration is the ugliest emotion in web usability, so it serves you to know what to watch for:
- Users might not find your website easy to move through or understand.
- Your content might not be arranged in a way that informs your buyer in a way that’s natural to them.
- Your website might not present the level of quality you offer (mixed expectations). This could be an issue of pricing, design, language/reading level, etc.
Friction in a web experience can be a dangerous thing, but if you are watching for those inconsistencies, they can become a powerful learning tool. Using analytics to track clicks and time on pages will give you your to-do list. For many businesses, social media comments and searches are also great ways to know what people are saying about you and your site. (We recommend that negative comments are responded to quickly and with grace.) Always be thankful for people’s positions. They are a living learning tool.
As people, we have deepened our reliance on the web for making decisions and marketing to those people who are making decisions. We must remove all points of friction to make their experiences easier.
And until I figure out how to safely maneuver my way through the mall without friction, it might be where I stay, too!
Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!