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Give Them What They Want (Not What You Want.)

While visiting SXSW a couple weeks ago, a speaker by the name of Jesse Friedman really made me stop, think, and want to challenge myself even more. This was the lesson from Jesse’s session, The UX of Real-Time Site Personalization: “When it comes to real-time user experiences, we need to think about the user.” Umm, duh! Seems obvious, but not thinking about the user is a common problem we see when browsing websites and mobile apps. What we see are cool ideas and progressive functionality being used in the wrong places or being added just for the cool factor. Instead of creating websites or mobile apps that cater to the majority of users, Jesse asserts that they should target one specific person – and focus on their needs. Websites should be for the user, and that’s it. Take JC Penny as an example. It takes me four clicks to get to the men’s t-shirt section because the only products being promoted on the homepage are prom dresses and woman’s shoes. I am a 35-year-old male, and these definitely aren’t the things I want to shop for at JC Penny. If I already own an iPhone5, why would Verizon Wireless promote an iPhone5 when I go to the company’s homepage? When I click to their page, they would do better to identify me as a customer who has an iPhone5, then use that information to upsell me on a newer version and/or accessories. Think how great this “personalized experience” would be if, when you searched on your mobile device for restaurants serving a certain type of food, that restaurant offered you more than just their phone number. With a website designed for a personalized customer experience, a restaurant may also serve up directions from your present location, the option to make reservations, a list of specials, or a coupon! This can be accomplished in several ways such as the use of cookies and/or user log-ins (Amazon uses both). The technology is there; more people just need to use it to meet customers’ needs. One company that does this well is Amazon. Amazon targets its consumers in a way that makes it very easy for them to find what they need.  It works because users don’t want to have to think or do much of anything to get where they want to go. It works not just for the customer: It works for the company too. The bottom line is that making the user experience easy results in more business for the company. And more business is good for the bottom line. Whatever the method, web designers should always think of the user – and challenge themselves to find ways to make cool sites while still giving the customers what the customer wants.
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