Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

Let’s Imagine I’m Doing Something on Your Web Site

Yesterday I wanted to use my car but couldn’t find my car key. The last I’d seen it, I was handing it to my daughter, two days ago. We have 3 cars, plus the boyfriend’s mini-van (with the broken muffler), and since he practically lives here, that makes 4 vehicles jammed into the driveway. But I wanted mine.

I did the usual. First, I “texted” her in school, so she wouldn’t get into trouble for having a cell phone on her. She had no idea where the key was. Then, I called my husband, who was using my car and his car over the weekend. His OTHER car, the tiny Miata he uses for his commute to work to save on gas, was rear-ended on Friday by a young woman who wasn’t watching the road. Nope. Husband has no idea where my car key is.

Fortunately, I had a spare key and of course, later on in the evening, my daughter found the original key sitting by her computer, which is buried in the world’s scariest Teenager’s Room.

It took all day to solve the missing car key mystery. I stuck with the search because I like my car and like to drive it.

Do you ever hope your web site visitors feel the same way about your web site? Have you driven it around the countryside before offering them the keys to it?

I’ve Come to Drive Your Web Site

I recently visited a web site that was redesigned. It looked professional and attractive. It was ready for visitors, but maybe not me. My goal was to find out where the products were and secondly, how to order them. However, the first big whammo! object on the page was a video of a person talking about a product.

This isn’t a bad thing. But I’m new. I’ve just sat in the homepage car seat. I want to look around, play with the radio, adjust the rear view mirror, figure out where they’ll let me put my coffee mug and by golly, is that a sale item over there?

I don’t want to watch a video yet and their’s takes up a huge chunk of homepage real estate, above the page fold. I’m sure it’s very nice and I’m sorry for scrolling past it. I came with a mission in mind. Did they build a site for me to carry it out?

Farther down the page, I finally discover the Way To Our Products click path. I click the link, which takes me to another page with a search function and after a few tries at getting the right search criteria down, I finally arrive at a product I’m interested in. It’s been 10 minutes, but YES! I’ve made it down their web site driveway.

It’s a good thing I want to drive their web site because after 10 minutes of figuring out where they put everything, I’m thinking I want to drive a sports car.

Navigation for web sites, especially large sites, is never easy to map out. It takes planning and consideration for visitors’ goals. It has to help visitors complete a task. On this particular web site, which was very attractive, they didn’t put a “How to Order” button or link on the product page.

I had no car key. I couldn’t start their web site engine. All I was able to do was play “pretend driver” and imagine I was doing something on their web site, because that’s about all they designed it to let me do.

The moral of this story?

The next time you design a web site, its okay to take it for a joy-ride. You’ve earned that right. But, make sure you throw the keys to other drivers and let them take it on the highway or down the street to Starbucks. These people are your user testing hero’s.

Trust me when I say that many of them crave bumpy roads and purposely love to drive web sites like maniacs, just to see what that baby can do.

Just remember to get your keys back when they’re finished.


  1. iamlost's Gravatar iamlost
    October 23, 2007    

    I visualise a site as a town, each page an address(!), and the navigation linkage the roads from here to there.

    I can count on my fingers the number of sites who took the time to layout the site architecture (town plan) and the interlinkings (the roads). Laid out this way a site typically has dead-end after ‘you can’t really get there from here’. Note: this is NOT a ‘sitemap’ where each page gets it’s very own direct link (beam me there, Scotty).

    Then add in inappropriate distractions and missing necessities such as you mention and it is no wonder so many sites play traffic trampoline.

    The wacky world where bean counters run marketing and graphics artists run site development. Of course, if they happen to be competitors: Hurray!!!

    I deleted all comentary about women and keys. You’re both welcome.

  2. October 23, 2007    

    “I deleted all comentary about women and keys.”


    I was thinking how cool I was to visualize web sites as sports cars and referring to them as “that baby”…

    Tomorrow? I compare shopping carts to football.


  3. October 23, 2007    

    If only I had a dollar for everytime I lost my keys. Good point, too many websites let you sit in the car but you can’t go where you want. Unfortunately usability still suffers even at websites that think they have it figured out. We don’t even have a usability expert (or novice for that matter) on staff at a large agency. No one to call when you can’t find the keys.

  4. October 24, 2007    

    “We don’t even have a usability expert (or novice for that matter) on staff at a large agency.”

    This is the norm, David. I don’t understand why companies (software dev, web design, marketing) don’t advertise that they have a usability specialist on deck. To me, this is a reason to hire them.

    The only thing I can think of, and what I find in the Philadelphia area, is that the majority of these kinds of companies don’t have such a person and don’t care about their end users and customers. It’s a constant disappointment and surprise.

    SO good to see you, btw!

  5. October 30, 2007    

    You have amazed me with analogy of the relationship of blogs/websites to driving a car.
    How does one go about finding out if they have a blog that is drivable???

    May I borrow this? Would love to add it to my blog. Will of course link it back to you

    Great work Now to check out what else you have here

    PS I don’t impress easy and you have done it

  1. Let’s Imagine I’m Doing Something on Your Web Site « Wendy’s OBA on October 31, 2007 at 7:18 am

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