Points of Resolution

Midnight. You head for the fridge. You don’t bother with the light. The railing confirms you’re at the bottom of the stairs. A few more feet to go, suddenly… smack! Hopping on what’s now your good foot, you switch on the light. You fell over that box you forgot to put away.

When you read or navigate a site, you’re led down a dim path toward understanding. Sometimes you bump into something. There’s a concern or question about what you just read, or you’d like more illumination, deeper explanation or additional information. This is a Point of Resolution, where you smack into a question, curiosity or concern that requires an answer.

Reading or surfing decelerates with that “something’s missing” feeling. You may not know what you need, but you need something.

Don’t Slow Her Down

On your Web site, a visitor may have a question about what she just read or saw. While it may not be serious, it halts progress and must be addressed. Don’t allow anything to slow a visitor down or compel her to rethink in order to continue. Maintain persuasive momentum. Find speed bumps, points where resolution is needed. Craft answers appropriate for the person reading the copy. Provide subtle calls-to-action with links to needed information. Address visitors as individuals. Provide them with the confidence to continue on.

It’s all part and parcel of Persuasion Architecture, which takes into account questions asked by theoretical personae (only after you understand these personae can you gauge those questions). I frequently link from one column to another to satisfy my readers’ personae. Some want to delve more deeply into concepts. For others, the column’s enough. Links attempt to satisfy both.

Answer Questions

When you’ve identified different visitor personae and anticipated their questions, provide answers. They’ll be delighted. Just don’t supply answers to questions they don’t have. That’s frustrating and could cause them to leave. Anticipate every move.

A common folly among site owners is to answer the questions they themselves would ask, not what visitors want to know. Despite good intentions, they’re shooting in the dark.

Highway to Frustration

Got that smug, he-can’t-mean-me attitude? Well, here’s a company whose usually brilliant marketing department should know better. A guy in our office wanted to learn about running shoes. Figuring Nike was a good choice for research, he pointed his browser to Nike.com.

Steps he had to take to get what he was looking for:

Typed: nike.com.
Page displayed: Amusing Flash.

Clicked: nikerunning.com.
Page displayed: Interesting Flash.

Clicked: Gear.
Page displayed: Menu popped up, not what he was looking for.

Clicked: Footwear.
Page displayed: Menu popped up again. He’s no longer amused.

Clicked: Men’s.
Page displayed: Flash, returned him to previous page.

Clicked: Trail.
Page displayed: Flash appeared (as did smoke from his ears).

Clicked: Air Divide.
Page displayed: Left: blurb about Air Divide shoe.
Right: Picture of Air Divide shoe with orange squares on it. Not what he’s after, but he’s determined.

Clicked: Orange square.
Page displayed: Technical language about Air Divide sole, miniscule amount of useful information.

At that point he was too frustrated to continue. (AOL users don’t encounter as much trouble; AOL won’t allow it. Kudos.)

Nike should provide better information. Our friend has a right to ask why Nike shoes are better and to expect the company will satisfy him. If a Methodical person wonders why celebrities wear Nike, Nike must answer that question. Granted, people look to the brand for style and youth. That’s no excuse for a Web site lacking substance and function.

J.M. Carroll wrote in The Adventure Of Getting To Know A Computer, “when people play in an arcade or on their computers, they are transported to another world where they may get lost or encounter surprises. They usually find this exploration exciting. In contrast, when users get lost in a business application, they become frustrated.”

Nike likely views its Web site as an ad, product or game. The thinking goes that if it’s a Nike product, style is an essential ingredient. On the contrary, a commercial Web site isn’t a product. It’s a sales tool. It can be a stylish sales tool, but it must be responsive to different personality types and their different questions. Don’t send them screaming in frustration to the competition.

Persuasion — a matter of intention

Nike provides many options, but doesn’t satisfy site visitors. When deciding how a Web site will be structured, make navigation as easy and as simple as possible. Construct the storyboard copy and graphics deliberately and carefully. Make it easy to find points of resolution. Map and anticipate the direction each persona will take. Then create the appropriate Web page.

Understand who your customers are. Walk a dark mile in their shoes — through your own Web site.

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