About a year ago, I wanted to buy opera tickets for a date night with my wife.
I could buy the tickets in advance online or at the box office. If I bought them at the box office, I’d have to find time to go to the opera house in person — but the staff would be able to help me quickly and efficiently. If I purchased online, I’d have the convenience of purchasing the tickets in the comfort of my home.
Naturally, I chose to buy them online.
It took over an hour to buy the tickets online. Because the opera house’s website used Flash, I couldn’t buy the ticket from my phone. When I tried it on my laptop, the website was incredibly unstable. It took three separate browsers before the website was able to complete the purchase.
I make websites for a living, and I couldn’t figure out their website. How will their target demographic (older, wealthier people who often have a more difficult time with technology) figure out their website if I can’t?
Not only that, but there was a major inconsistency between the online purchase and the real-world opera experience. I had a bad time interacting with the opera house online, but in person, their staff was nothing less than polite, considerate, and cogent in their communications. These two personalities were not in sync, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
So while my wife and I both enjoyed the opera well enough, we haven’t been back.
The key to being consistent online is to create a customer experience that, as closely as possible, matches the one they would have with you in person. This is incredibly hard to get right, but can net huge rewards in the end.
When I designed and developed the new website for The New Quarterly, they wanted to make reading the magazine online as easy it was in print. Their efforts paid off. Visits and engagement on their new site skyrocketed. And for the first time, customers were able to manage their subscriptions in a web interface. It cut down on their support calls and their bookkeeping. It also opened up entirely new areas of revenue for their business.
That’s what an online experience is capable of when it’s consistent with the real world.
If this seems like a difficult and time-consuming thing to do, then you’re not far from the truth. Problems like this are why people hire designers like me. It’s also why it costs so much money to get a “simple” website made for your business.
It’s also the reason businesses want custom websites: if you can afford it, it makes good sense to hire somebody to make sure your online brand and markets efforts match what you do out on the streets of reality.
Here’s a simple takeaway: what could you do, this week, to make your online persona more like your in-person persona? Whether you run a business or not, we all live online now. And consistency online breeds trust in real life.
If you liked this post, you should sign up for my email newsletter and get tips and insights like this in your inbox every week!