I just ordered a book to download into my Nook Book e-reader. It was a book I had read about in someone’s blog and had made a note to myself to see if it was available in electronic format. When I had time later, I used the search function in the Nook Book’s section at the Barnes and Noble website. They had it, I clicked to buy it and in less than 30 seconds I was finished.
Barnes and Nobel had the object of my desire. Not only that, they designed everything from search to purchase to be an easy task.
Offer your site visitors the object of their desire.
Had I visited the site with only a small idea in my mind of what I wanted, my experience would have been different. I would have needed to depend on their search function, navigation from the homepage to the Nook Book’s section, browse by genre or search by keywords to get to what I wanted. It’s a much longer process and unless it’s designed well, offers the most opportunities for me to give up or run out of time for browsing.
Despite some grumblings in the usability industry that a search function means a site isn’t designed properly, the truth is that demand for search functions is exploding. The key reason is that any type of search helps us find the object of our desire faster and more effectively than fumbling through faulty navigation or web pages that don’t render well in all browsers.
Searching for What We Need
There are two main findability tasks that the majority of Internet users are most interested in performing. One is finding something they need and the other is finding something they want. They’re closely related but there are differences in motivation. A web designer’s job (ok, one of the many!) is to understand these two user needs and accommodate both of them.
Finding something we need covers a wide area. We need to eat, so we search for food coupons and restaurants. We may need some type of service, such as insurance quotes or hotel reservations. We may need phone numbers or need to do research. More people around the world run searches on their mobile devices because these offer the most instant access and results. Technology has made it possible to ask your phone, using voice commands, to find directions, get a phone number or search for local pizza places. With the use of mobile applications, we can search for gas price comparisons and get our news.
Clearly we’re dependent on search to help us get through our day and multi-task. Where we grow frustrated, however, is upon arrival to an online destination such as a restaurant or a product web site that are nearly impossible to use once we arrive. The problem isn’t the failure of search. It’s the failure of the web design to follow up with accurate information and simple navigation.
Searching for What We Desire
An object of our desire is something we badly want; with or without knowing we want it. Every ecommerce web site out there wants to nail this one. The crux of persuasive web design is about promotion, presentation and motivation. If you’ve ever visited an ecommerce or services web site and not been able to understand in 5 seconds what they have to offer you and why you may want it, this is a failed persuasive web design. If you must scroll, browse and click to “cherry pick” your way around to find that thing that will totally make your day, chances are the information architecture isn’t based on user feedback and studies.
However, there’s wiggle room. For example, one aspect of leading someone to that object of their desire is to create the desire. This is not the same as creating a need. I’m referring to a web design that inspires browsing to tease the visitor into dreaming about owning your products. Search functions can be combined with options for faster access to specific areas that your visitor hadn’t considered before or may not have realized you offer.
Sometimes a mere picture of a product gets the heart pounding and fingers itching to go find the credit card. In my next post, I’ll give you tips and show examples on how to lead your visitors to the object of desire that may exist on your web site.