• Are you losing sales to the Good Enough Syndrome?

    by  • January 6, 2009 • Usability • 4 Comments

    We have all done it – we have gotten so incredibly sick and tired of working on site, whether it is a brand new one or simply a site redesign, when we hit the point – usually during extreme exhaustion – that we decide the site is “Good Enough” to launch or go live. And if there are still multiple things on the to do list when we do get there, we tend to set them aside until we reach the point we can actually stand to look at the site again! But of course, all those to dos are suddenly forgotten when we move onto the next site (not to mention all the to dos for each subsequent site worked on), and while we might have a vague recollection that there was “something” left to do on the site chances are pretty good the thought is long gone when we do finally give the site time for a thorough going over.

    But what many people don’t consider is the fact that the “Good Enough” point could be costing you critical sales. Why? Because you don’t end up going and fixing all those little things that you really should have done prior to launch. And since no one in their right mind will go and launch a site with a pesky MySQL debug error or javascript error, the things left over after that Good Enough point is reached are often the ones that can affect your bottom line – things like usability and presentation. These are often the usability and presentation issues that a webmaster might not even notice after the fact or even think to check. And let’s face it, once many people launch a site, they just assume since they did it, it has to be perfect… and yes, those types are usually the worst offenders!

    A classic case is a site a family member visited today. It is a storefront selling high end but used products (think thousands of $ per sale, even though they are used). They are somewhat hard to find and condition is definitely a factor. He was passed the research stage, he knew exactly what brand name he wanted and narrowed it down to a series of models, and now it was down to checking out the models this particular site had, and reading about the condition each item was in. He was ready to buy, and quite ready to buy from this particular website because “it came up first in Google”. (Yes, I know!) But a few minutes later he left the site and went to spend his money on another site. So what caused this particular website to lose the $1k+ sale? The fact that when he searched within their online store, the large-ish thumbnail photos of the items came up along with a quick small font size snippet about the item in question (ie. Blue Widget, XYZ-99 model, excellent condition, $1234.00, click for details). But when he clicked the thumbnail, nothing happened. He clicked again multiple times to no avail and realized that he had to click the tiny “click for details” to get to the product page. And after the third one he tried to look at where he clicked the photo out of habit, he left the site for a competitor’s site… where it should be noted that the next site DID have the thumbnail photos linked to the product detail page.

    This issue is usability, pure and simple. And even the simplest of usability tests would have shown this as being an issue. There is no excuse for the product thumbnails to not be clickable, especially when you are relying on a very tiny “click for details” to actually lead the customer to the product buying page. But I am willing to bet that “linking thumbnails to product page” and probably a “make better design for linking to product page from snippet” had been on the pre-launch to-do list that ended up getting set on the wayside when the Good Enough point was reached, and then – you guessed it – eventually forgotten about. And if this one person found it a big enough issue that he was willing to leave the site over it, you have to wonder about how many other people left the site in frustration over the same thing. The last thing you want to do is lose a sale not over your products being an issue, but your site design being the deal breaker. And this is especially true when that deal breaker is something so minor and easily fixable.

    In this economy where everyone is tightening belts (not to mention many of them jumping into opening their own online business, which could be a competitor to yours!) it is crucial to eliminate as many of the “sit back and think about this purchase before you click buy” issues that could cost you the sale. You don’t want a small but annoying usability issue to be the reason they left, when you could have gotten the sale otherwise.

    Have any of your sites fallen victim to the “Good Enough” syndrome? Some quick usability testing works great to check for any problems on a site. And don’t think you have to spend money on a company to do the testing for you. If you are on a budget, bribe friends with dinner if they will sit down for half an hour and surf the site while you watch (have them do it individually though, not together), and then answer some quick questions about their experience. Not sure what to ask? Here is a list of questions to ask usability testers and how to tell if your top internal entry pages are user friendly enough.


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    4 Responses to Are you losing sales to the Good Enough Syndrome?

    1. January 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm

      I think “good enough” is fine for an initial release but it does require the discipline of continuous improvements and iterations to refine what you created.

      Usability and functionality of what you initially release does need to be sound. Maybe save time by not implementing all the features you wanted at first but then be sure what you do have is working properly.

    2. January 8, 2009 at 1:11 am

      It happens a lot. It also gives me the feeling that webmaster do not test their own sites. They should go to a cookie free browser without being logged in. Subsequently, do some searches try to buy stuff, etc. These kind of usability should show up easily. It is also possible to outsource a small scale testing fairly cheaply. Go to a testing agency and ask them to test the search and buy functionality. Again, linking thumbnails should show up in these tests.

      It strikes me that webshops have these kind of mistakes. ONce I was doing some research for a family member who sells paintings for bedrooms for children. I told her I thought the price was low so I started a comparison check on the internet. Actually I was not able to find a price in the top 3 lists in Google. MOreover, order buttons were missing, contact information was missing, etc. incredible that these people sell anything at all.

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