Trespassing on Private Property….

I ignored the cruiser lights flashing behind me.

I knew why the cop was trying to pull me over but I was more interested in PR’ing the hill.  According to my Garmin I was 33 seconds ahead of my previous best time and I wanted to keep that.  It’s not often you see a blue moon.

He could wait another 2.5 minutes.

And if he couldn’t, he could get out of his damn car and chase me.  That would certainly make me run faster.

About thirty seconds later, he put the sirens on.

Not even 6 o’clock in the morning and he’s got the sirens blaring.  Luckily there were no neighbors.

I kept pounding away and glanced quickly at my watch.  I was now about 48 seconds ahead.

Ha!  The song Disrespectful randomly came on my iPod.  So appropriate.

I kept chugging away.  If the guy really wanted me to pull over he should have pulled ahead of me.  He was in the car, and I was on foot so it’s not like that move would have been all that tough.  Not to mention I’m not exactly FloJo.

I heard a muffled voice calling out over some loudspeaker thing to stop IMMEDIATELY.  For the love of all things holy, this is where my tax dollars go to?

I got to the fence – my finishing point – and stopped.  I hit the button on my watch to seal in my best-time-yet and started walking around – huffing and puffing – in a circle.

The cop got out of his car – and saddled on over.  “You’ll be deaf before you’re 30 with that music on so loud.”

Before I am 30?  Apparently he needs his vision checked.  I am hardly 20-something, I thought.

Officer Friendly went on.  “You know why I’m pulling you over?”

I wanted to say “Because you have nothing better to do on a Saturday morning?” but I bit my tongue and instead said nothing.

“You are trespassing on private property.”

Last week, I pissed off my sister-in-law, Homeland Security and some VERY VOCAL jackass at what will likely be the future Circuit City.  This week it’s a small-town cop with nothing better to do.  Reason #1235 I could never be a public servant in a small town – I’d have to go where the action is – investigating a grisly murder, not a faux-runner on a private estate.

I thought about taking him to the place where they used to grow pot plants on the property – and still do – all these years later – but instead I just smiled, remembering all the cough-illegal-cough things we used to do here and how much fun it was back in the day.

I had taken my headphones out of my ears but I hadn’t turned the music off so it was blaring at my knees.   After hearing what was playing, I realized why he thought I was fresh out of college.  My running playlist wasn’t exactly sophisticated.

“You are trespassing on private property.”   He repeated this time a bit more emphatically.  “And I will need to ticket you.”

The whole situation reminded me of watching people shop online.

When people hit lead forms and checkouts, they just want to do what they need to do and then get the Hell out.  They don’t want to pull over for anything – or anyone.  Period.

Our brains are designed for survival – to keep us alive – and lead forms and checkouts are still a little dicey in most of our heads.  You can debate this all you want but you know in your heart that we evolved to figure out what deep, dark caves not to go into and what poisonous flowers to avoid, we didn’t really evolve to figure out how to fill out forms.

So when people go online, they do just what I did with the cop – they ignore all the blaring blue lights, the sirens and the bullhorn calls of “Miss, you need to pull over.”

At some point, they get stuck – or stopped – and then it’s over.   But it’s on their terms.  Not anybody else’s.

How do you make it easier for your barreling-straight-ahead user?  Here are twelve proven things you can do:

Put the phone number (and other alternative methods to contact you) all over the place.  Don’t bury it.  No, I don’t care that Amazon doesn’t have a phone number.  You are not Amazon and you can’t afford to lose a quarter to a third of your leads/sales.  Make sure your contact information is at the top of the pages, the bottom and most importantly, in the righthand column of all forms/checkout.

Ask for the email address first.  You’re going to lose people.  It’s a fact.  People shouldn’t be shopping for Vibrams while at work.  (Hell, some people think you shouldn’t be shopping for Vibrams at all.)  When the phone rings or the boss comes in and they close the browser and pretend they’re working on a spreadsheet, you’re history.  Unless you have the email address.  Then you can email them.

Don’t ask any irrelevant questions.  I know you want to find out where they heard from you but the user?  She could not care less.  She also doesn’t want to tell you how many hours a week she spends in the garden or what her purchasing authority is.  You want to know those things, you should ask after you’ve gotten the order (on a confirmation page or in an email) or through profiling.

Make forms quick and easy to fill out.   Make them look like they are one screen.  Use lots of big action directives.  (Make sure there is one action directive on every view.)  Put the fields in vertical order.  Use temperature bars if you have more than one page.  If you know something (like the user’s email address), consider prefilling it.  You know the drill.

Lose or reduce the navigation.   If you’re an ecommerce company, chances are you shouldn’t have any navigation in the checkout.  You can (and should) test this but the majority of time, navigation is a distraction and hurts you.

Speaking of distractions, eliminate steps and/or pages that may take the user off course.  Your goal is to get a lead/order.  If you’re an ecommerce company, you may not need a View Cart page.  (Some do, some don’t, so you should test it, especially if you only sell 1-2 items per order.)  If you’re capturing inquiries, don’t put a bunch of superfluous information on the pages and stay the Hell away from Capchas.  If you have a problem with SPAM, figure it out.  Don’t make the user do your dirty work.

Use pop-ups on exit.  They’re leaving anyway.  You may as well give it one last college try.  (Hint: you should use entrance pop-ups for collecting email addresses, too.)

Make abandoned programs – for lead forms and for shopping carts – part of the program.  (There’s a lot more on abandoned carts here.)

Consider instigated chat.   It works.

Keep your cookies open indefinitely.  They’ll thank you when they come back and see that you’ve recognized them.

Minimize the legalese and disclaimers.  I don’t need to know what will happen if I order 25 of your product if I am only ordering 1.  I also don’t need to know how you handle international inquiries if you and I are both in the US.

Make the process as fast as possible.    A lot of times, companies have performance issues on things like search and checkout.  Sadly, these are the WORST places to have hang-ups.  Put more power to the areas where your users are giving you data/information.  And if you’re not good at this, use server calls (or similar techniques.)

Bottom line: if you wouldn’t bet your house on the value of something, don’t ask for it and don’t do it.



P.S. About the ticket, I’ll save the rest of the story for later.  Right now, I need to put down my phone and deal with TSA.  I guess we know what next week’s post will be about.  Heh.