The truth hurts…

I read a post about people just wanting the truth at Living Light Bulbs yesterday, it describes how you need to face up to the fact that there are things wrong with your company, product or website.  Because even if you are hiding from the truth, your customer is well aware that your service is not as good as it could be.

Yeah okay, it uses a rather gross image (zits) but its final point is a good one: ‘If you have limited resources you have essentially two choices 1. Cover up the truth or, 2. Improve what’s already true about you’¨.

What’s the point of collecting data on what’s wrong with our websites if we don’t do something with it? I was already thinking about this when I checked the Questback statistics and saw this, brutally honest, comment:

“I strongly believe that the Lund University Web Site, is a mess, a complete mess. I think that you could gain a lot be simplifying it instead of making people enter in a never ending turning wheel. It is quite stressful and not user friendly at all. I hope I could have been of some assistance, good luck for further developments.”

Yes, it hurts to read this stuff. And this comment is not based on an isolated event. Our website is extremely decentralised and, as a result, it is possible to end up in the loops she is describing. This may not be the experience of all our users but the fact that it happens just some of the time is a critical usability issue.

How can we use this kind of comment above, and the rest of the data we collect? The long term view is identify the biggest problems and get to work solving them – on the basis of priority. The shorter term view is to use the survey data, and particular the comments, to remind ourselves that our webpages are really, yes really, read by real people, who get stressed when the navigation, or the content, lets them down.

It’s painful to read, we’d much rather just look at the visitor numbers and page views, but by listening to the users – whenever, and however we get the chance – we can continue to improve our work on a daily basis.