Customers take shortcuts and you should pay attention

July 26th, 2009 by Daniel DiRico

shortcut-pathWhile walking through Cambridge recently on mission to find lunch, a park scene stood out as something important to take note of.

It is likely that considerable time and effort went into designing and building the original paved path to guide people through the park. Unfortunately, the path was not always followed and people began to carve out a path of their own instead.

This not only created a scar for others to see, but it also turned an otherwise standard walk in the park into a mildly treacherous, unfriendly user experience for anyone simply trying to get from A to B in a way that made the most sense to them.

What is going on here?

Your company’s Web sites and software applications may be extremely well planned, prototyped, and tested prior to deployment, but once released out into the wild, your customers will feel the need to use shortcuts that you may not have expected and/or may have explicitly tried to prevent.

Why should I care?

Your web sites and your applications should be continuously monitored (either via Google Analytics, user feedback or focus group testing) for such user behavior because it gives you enormously valuable data that can be leveraged into your next set of Web and software application projects.

Among other things, knowing this information will help you:

  • Determine which projects in your project portfolio will have the best chance of ROI
  • Greatly improve the usability of your Web sites and software applications
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Generate more leads online by improving your conversion funnels
  • Increase sales – directly from the customer if sales are made online, or via sales staff using your software applications

So look closely for that unexpected path your customers have cut through the park. ¬†You’ll be glad that you did.