“Death to Bullshit” and Catering to Goldfish
Consumers have a short attention span. An extremely short attention span. We all know this, we even partake in it – right now, you are probably deciding whether or not you want to read this whole blog or just skim through to the bottom (it’s okay, I get it) – yet when it comes to the design of a website, it seems to be forgotten.
This doesn’t mean that consumers don’t have time for a webpage to load or an ad to finish, in fact it has become normal to spend hours in front of our screens. The truth is, they just don’t want to wait if they don’t have to. Any time spent has to be efficient for the end user, or you risk losing them as a customer.
People are always pleased with speedy service in restaurants or grocery stores, but online, service has it’s own set of rules with a much more aggressive audience. They desire an instantaneous response to their actions or they will go somewhere else to find it. It isn’t much more complicated for the consumer than “I click this, I get this” and by golly if they don’t get it right away. In a loading period of just four seconds, you can lose about 25% of visitors.
The thing is, the expectation of instant gratification means that it has become common for consumers to not begin a search until they immediately need or want the answer. This has only increased with the rise in mobile online usage where people have a higher expectation of “information at their fingertips”.
We have built a culture of procrastination with high expectation. Mobile web users want to be able to stand on a street corner and look up Yelp reviews before deciding where to eat, get updated driving directions and traffic reports while at a red light, look up who that person was in that one movie during dinner with friends. (And let’s face it, you can’t even playfully argue with friends about random facts anymore because they will just whip out their phone and look it up, ruining all the fun…)
Any additional time between that initial inquiry and receiving the answer is a waste to the consumer, and potentially detrimental to your business (if you happened to be on the other end of that failed inquiry).
This is true in almost every business-to-consumer industry today. So how do you cater to someone with the attention span of a goldfish, while still measuring your marketing goals and return on investment (ROI)?
Many developers have turned to spammy or deceptive tactics (also known as Dark Patterns) to grab the user’s attention and force them into a conversion (newsletter sign-up, form submission, monthly subscription) without their best interest in mind.
Do some of these tactics work? Sure they can, but most of the time it is at the expense of building relationships with your customers by going straight to the sales pitch or even purposefully misleading them. We’ve all been this unlucky goldfish, and it is unlikely that anyone in this position will be a returning customer or refer you to a friend if they feel they’ve been cheated.
Brad Frost, a web designer out of Pittsburgh, created a website called “Death to Bullshit” described as a “rallying cry to rid the world of bullshit and demand experiences that respect people and their time.” This one-page website is built for the sole purpose of expressing frustration, educating the industry, and imploring others to lead by example and make a change for the better.
“People’s capacity for bullsh*t is rapidly diminishing.”
Frost’s definition of “bullshit” includes anything that falls into the category of:
- Superfluous or unnecessary
- Cluttered, clunky, or needlessly complex
- Intentionally deceptive or insincere
Frost also provides a list of tactics that he believes contributes to the “bullshit” that consumers see online, stating that it can “lie on a spectrum somewhere between ineptitude and outright deception”.
- Junk mail
- Begging for likes
- Tracking scripts
- Marketing spam
- Dark patterns
- Unskippable ads
- Clickbait, linkbait
- Seizure-inducing banners
- QR codes
- Barely-visible unsubscribe buttons
- 24-hour news networks
- Auto-playing audio
- Sudden redirects to the App Store
- Ticked-by-default subscribe buttons
- “Your call is important to us”
- Pageview-gaming galleries
- Native advertising
These tactics may seem like a good way to capture customer information, inform them about upcoming deals or events, or make some money through advertising, but they can actually hurt your website in the long run if used improperly. Large images, hidden menus, long advertisements – these all slow down the process of getting to the information that the consumer set out to get.
This is especially true for mobile users who are, more than likely, looking for specific information and do not have the patience to fill out a form on their mobile device or sit through a loud advertisement.
I would, however, argue that, when used alone and with a consumer minded strategy in place, some of these tactics can be beneficial to both the consumer and the company. But this is only true with limited use and unobtrusive behavior. The user always has to come first.
“Dark Pattern: User Interfaces Designed to Trick People”
When adding any additional feature to the website, you must treat desktop and mobile users as two completely separate species, and don’t forget to test it out for yourself. I guarantee that a mobile user will lose interest if they have to pinch around their screen trying to find that tiny “x” to close whatever silly pop-up you thought was necessary or more important than the reason they visited your site to begin with.
Tracking visitor behavior is a great way to educate and improve upon the user’s experience, and newsletters can be a positive touch point for you and your customers that you wouldn’t otherwise have. With every single feature, menu, or content piece on your website (whether it is on Frost’s list or not) you should be able to define who the audience is, how it helps them without annoying others, and how it will improve your business.
This isn’t an exact science, but take for example a pop-up advertising 20% off a purchase – this is not necessary for a customer who is trying to return an order (and could possibly agitate them further) but a message in the header with a reminder pop-up upon adding something to the shopping cart could greatly benefit another customer.
If you want to get a feel for the mindset of a frustrated consumer, you can see all of Frost’s tactics in action on the “Death to Bullshit” website (by clicking his option to “Turn Bullshit On?”) and experience all the blunders marketers make that take away from any real content on a website. While this is an exaggerated example, it is poignant none-the-less, showing how bloated and out of touch with the consumer these tactics can appear.
What does Frost suggest you focus on when developing a website? That you should:
- Respect people and their time.
- Respect your craft.
- Be sincere.
- Create genuinely useful things.
Here are a few things you can do right now that might help cut down on any negative user experiences and make sure your users are getting what they want (as soon as possible, of course):
- Reevaluate: If you currently use any of the above tactics, separate them out into a list and define the goal of this tactic and how it is beneficial to the user.
- Test Your Website: visit your site on multiple devices and browsers after any major change on a variety of desktop screen sizes, different mobile phone brands, tablets, etc.
- Check Page Load Time: Use Google’s PageSpeed testing tool to see how it performs on desktop and mobile, as well as recommendations for how to improve load time
- Analyze Visitor Behavior: Install tools like Google Analytics (visitor data) CrazyEgg (heatmaping) and Inspectlet (video capture of website visits) can give you amazing insight into the experience of a consumer without interfering with their visit. You will be able to see where they click, what pages they visit, how long they stay on the site, and any challenges customers are having before they leave.
- Future Implementation of Google AMP: Google announced their roll-out of Accelerated Mobile Pages, a new framework similar to the Instant Articles on Facebook. These will be a “lightweight version” of webpages specifically for mobile browsing that works with Google’s caching to make them load faster and use less cellular data. (Currently, this is mostly beneficial for large news sources and blogs)
Your website has to be a better version of the real world in which you can provide a service efficiently and information instantly. You aren’t going to see a customer at a grocery store lash out at the check-out attendant for taking more than five minutes to ring them up. However, when a customer is in front of a screen in the comfort of their own home, purchasing an item shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Amazon’s One Click Ordering option allows customers to instantly purchase items without the use of an online shopping cart, benefiting the retailer with an increase in spontaneous purchases and the customer with a faster, more efficient purchase process. This is a brilliant feature that is mutually beneficial to both the consumer and the company.
So the question is, how can you speed up the process of helping them, to help you, without adding to the noise?