It was 6:11 am and the silver-haired gentleman standing outside my door was wearing a burgundy-colored, Hugh Hefner-style robe and bright white tube socks.
I made a mental note to myself that I should start staying at Hampton Inns instead of luxury hotels. Not only is the wireless FREE — not $29.95 per flipping day — but Hampton Inns have far fewer crazy-ass people. (They probably don’t lock their fire doors either.)
Before I could reply, he continued. “That’s why I need you to open my ketchup.”
For the love of all things holy.
Before I could conclude if that was the worst pick-up line EVER, he thrust a teensy bottle of Heinz from his right pocket.
“I can’t get it open.” He stammered. “I knew you were up because I saw you walk by when they were delivering my eggs. You really should wear shoes in public places. The world is very dirty.”
The world is very dirty said the man propositioning me to take the clear security stuff off his ketchup. (Incidentally, what exactly do the room service guys do with those little bottles of ketchup for it to require such protective plastic? I mean really.)
I thought about explaining (sarcastically) to him that his socks weren’t going to protect him from all the communicable carpet diseases you could get from the Mandarin Oriental but I didn’t want to give ole’ Hugh a heart attack so I just smiled and replied: “I hate those little bottles of ketchup too. Those safety seals are impossible to open, even with a knife. Let me show you my trick…”
Then I went to get a pen.
I took off the protective seal for him and handed him back the bottle. “Enjoy your breakfast!”
“Thank you,” he said. “Thank you very much. You can always count on women to know such things.”
Great. It’s amazing to be a girl. If things don’t work in internet marketing for me, I can always stalk the room service staff at ritzy hotels offering to open old geezers’ ketchup. Just call me the Condiment Prostitute.
He left and I went back to work.
Six minutes later, he was back.
“I can’t get it out. The ketchup. I can’t get it out of the bottle. Can you help me?” He asked as he handed the bottle back to me. He continued: “The knife. It doesn’t fit in the bottle. I tried the fork and the spoon too. I thought about using my pen but…”
“Of course” I replied not wanting to know what kind of killer viruses pens have (they must be far worse than carpets). I grabbed my key and headed out the door and across the hall to his room without even thinking. (Hey, Dexter this guy was not. Plus, didn’t you know? I’m strong… ESPECIALLY for a girl.)
I showed him precisely how to tilt the bottle and then smack it hard on the bottom to get the ketchup out. (Yes, I am aware that this whole story sounds like a giant euphemism – let me assure you it was not. If I was interested in magazine publisher look-alikes, Rupert Murdoch is far more my type.)
And then I left. (Well, after we had a lengthy discussion about the Presidential Debate but that’s all together a different topic.)
That morning I told the story to the crowd at my speech. There were about 800 people in the room and there were a lot of nods. Perhaps the nods were the nice nods we give to people who are clearly one French Fry short of a Happy Meal but if I had to bet it’s because most of us have our very own ketchup story. (Not a story about where we knock on random doors in our tighty-whiteys but where we can’t do something simple – like open a bottle of Heinz for our hashbrowns.)
Our websites are chock-full of things that appear super simple yet are annoying, impossible or annoyingly impossible. Here are the top 8 that I see most often as well as ideas on how you can fix them.
Poor navigation. This is BY FAR the biggest for users. I’ve written about it ad nauseam. The rule of thumb is to remember that navigation is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You get what I give you. If I don’t give it to you, you don’t get it and you are forced to use the text search which brings me to…
Bad text search. Look, even Google and Bing don’t get text search right. If they did, they wouldn’t need to show you over 70,000,000 results for women’s shirts. The key with text search is to remember that the presentation of the results is more important than the results themselves. Make sure that you’d bet your house on the first result the user sees. You should be able to bet your car on the second. Your phone on your third. (Okay, for most of you reading this blog the order is likely phone, house, car. Or maybe just first phone, second phone, tablet.)
Impossible Capchas. The person who invented these little suckers should be known as the Modern Day Stalin and executed like Mussolini. My feeling is that if you use these, you are lazy and need to be subjected to 24 hours of Oogielove. (I saw it once – ironically for love of the terrorists-in-training — and I will never be the same.) If you employ capchas it means that your IT department wants the user to solve your technical issues. (Clue: there’s a reason why IT guys aren’t in charge of marketing.)
Useless double opt-ins. See capchas above and multiply the number of bullets and hours used before the kill shot by six. You know who uses the most double opt-ins? Spammers, mailers who get high SPAM complaints and the services who attract spammers and those who get high SPAM complaints. If you’re a legit mailer, send out a series of introductory welcome emails (with a clear way to unsubscribe) instead. While you’re at it, develop a solid preferences center. They are worth their weight in gold.
Slow sites. I know. I know. People are tired of hearing me talk about speed even more so now that your SEO says that speed doesn’t matter to Google. Speed matters to users most in the cart, the checkout, and the search function. It also matters a lot in chat (live and instigated), video, and mobile. Especially mobile.
Having to search for the Buy Now/Add To Cart/Sign-Up Now buttons. Rule of thumb: at least one BIG, BOLD, in-your-face action directive on every view. At least two perpetual carts – preferably three – on every website page.
Hiding the D&A information. Delivery and Availability (D&A) information should be near the pricing. Headline, subhead, reviews, in-stock information and the pricing? They should all be together in one neat little package.
Have other things you’d like to add? Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add it to the follow-up list of things that stress folks out in my next newsletter. Right now, I clearly need to find someone to open my Xanax.
UPDATE: My buddy, Debra Ellis, added this one which is too appropriate to wait for the newsletter. She says ”I would add ‘having to search for contact information’. People make it hard to find the contact information because they mistakenly think that customers want to talk to them and will make random calls or spam them with email. You and I know that customers want to place their orders and solve their problems as quickly as possible. If the site is set up to do this, few will call. If not, the calls help identify the problems.” True that.