Make sense online

  • Sumo

I spent 30 minutes messing about on Paypal today trying to make out how to issue a refund.  Yeah, my first, can you believe it. Someone had somehow bought the same product twice, so of course I was perfectly happy to reimburse him (or her, I didn’t get a name). The thing is the instructions weren’t so great. I got to stage 2 or 3 in the process when I was asked to select 3 options one of which was : I have made a refund. Well, I hadn’t yet made a refund, I was in the process of trying to make one, so I ignored that, hit backspace and… went round in circles for another 15 minutes.

Finally I called Paypal and an American woman with a dolly voice took me through the process and told me to select the I have made a refund option. I said, Couldn’t you at least get the tense right? Grammar…? She made a sound as if to humour me and told me what to do next. The rest was straight forward. In two minutes I was done.

Some days I spend hours doing this kind of crap – going round in circles because some dickwad can’t write clear instructions. You may have noticed this theme is a Woo theme. It’s one of the better premium themes. But the instructions on Woo for the various settings are pretty dire. Maybe not to a websmaster, but that ain’t me. or most people, come to that. Surely it would make more sense making a series of step-by-step videos for every theme so everyone was clear. Instead they seem to rely on their forum as a space for troubleshooting. Like that’s real fun, going to and fro writing questions and deciphering answers and writing questions again. I am so bored of searching forums for answers. OK, hands up, I’m not a techie or a nerd – but I guess that makes me part of the majority. If developers and designers made fewer assumptions of their customers’ knowledge, things would move a lot quicker.

Misdirection is part of the modern disease that accompanies information overload. I get loads of emails from marketers with clever, tricky subject lines that get me to open and sometimes click. Like, Your account has been suspended. Your order has been processed…. You are at risk… We are giving you all this software… I arrive at a web page only to discover I’m not being ‘given’ anything, I’m being sold to. These techniques may well entrap a few subscribers, but my gut feeling is they work against everything you are trying – or should be trying – to do to establish trust. If you want a following, if you want people to believe in you and buy from you, repeatedly, you would be better served not using tricksy subject lines and phony call-to-action lines.

So this short post is really a bid for clarity, a request that designers and developers ask themselves, Would my mum get this? A request that marketers tone down the hype and talk to their subscribers as they would if they met them at a bar in a pub. You can still be full of enthusiasm – but just leave the bullshit to corporations. Because if you’re just an entrepreneur, people will only buy from you again and again if they like you. You have to come across as a friend – who talks sense. Make sense?

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