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January 21, 2009

The Thing About Hope

Hope2228331745_8a8b55f1be_o Seth Godin claims that marketers sell hope. I suppose it's true, in a way, but we should make the distinct point that the only thing worse than not selling hope at all is selling hope and not delivering the results the hope demands.

Usability: An opportunity to promise hope and deliver the expected result

Marketers aren't the only ones who sell hope, by the way. This should remind us of another of Godin's maxims: Marketing is too important to be left to the professional marketers.

Periodically I must explain to people -- clients and managers alike -- how a usable website improves their brand. Almost all of them politely listen, often they believe it, but occasionally someone in authority will laugh at the concept and insist replacing that usability with marketing fluff that no one will read anyway.

They call it "branding."

I've read enough by now that I can cite chapter and verse of several usability experts who have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that this is most often useless and frustrating. But, to these few, such objections are futile, and they are quick to dismiss the studies carried out by "usability experts" because, hey, after all, they're the "brand experts."

But if we're to take Godin's advice to heart, then we'll realize that no qualified individual comes to a website without purpose -- a hope in finding value in the form of information, entertainment, a little of both -- any number of things.

We have it in our power to make it easy on those people to find an answer they have every right to expect to find easily.

Or we can make it hard.

If we make it hard, they'll either muddle through it for as long as their hope reservoirs still contain enough goodwill to continue, or they'll deplete their supply of goodwill, leave the site, and never come back (or at least think twice about sticking around for as long as they did the first time, if they do).

So by all means, whatever it is you do for a living, sell hope. But make sure you understand what people really hope for, rather than what you hope to do in order to justify to yourself that you're providing real value. - Cam Beck


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Cam - nice thinking here! My UI group will be thrilled when they see it!

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