March 26th, 2013

Back by popular demand: Let Them Pee

Hey there! I was mentioned in this fun article by Greg Nudelman, who shows extraordinary taste when it comes to “UX People.” And just ’cause, I figured I’d repost the original, now-famous “Let them pee” blurb! Here you go! (get it?)

Imagine you are sitting in a car in the middle of a long road trip. You really have to pee. It’s all you can think about. Your eyes are peeled for the nearest rest stop. You’re spending all of your cognitive cycles trying to calculate how long you can hold it before the situation becomes dire and you´re starting to weigh the pros and cons of pulling over to the side of the road. It´s bad. Meanwhile, your beloved is sitting next to you, chattering on about how lovely the scenery is. Needless to say, you´re not that interested nor are you being even remotely attentive. Your beloved begins to get irked. Things start to escalate and both sides get irritated, each convinced they are ´right´ to be doing what they are doing. 

Why am I asking you to imagine this? Because I think that many visitors to online retail stores are on a long road trip and they have to pee. They have a goal and they want to be successful in that goal; they aren´t looking to be distracted until their goal is satisfied. Perhaps they want those cool sneakers but they want them for less. Maybe they´re trying to find a replacement for the CD they broke yesterday. Maybe their needs aren´t quite as pressing as the one I described above, but they are there nonetheless. And what is their experience at your store? My guess it´s almost exactly like our poor driver´s experience: they´re trying to ignore information that is distracting, annoying, and, as far as they´re concerned, completely irrelevant to their goal. They´re wading through banners and sale stickers. They´re searching through a sea of chattering navigation links. They´re typing something in search and wondering why they didn´t get what they wanted.

Ask yourself: when she arrives at my store, does my customer have to pee and, if she does, am I letting her? Or am I trying to force her to think about things I think are important and interesting about my store? Can I understand the reasons my customer came to my store in the first place, help him or her achieve those goals, and then introduce all the ´wonderful scenery´ when they are ready to listen? Examine the who, what, where, when, and why of the messages on your site. Respect the fact that many customers have something in mind when they arrive and that they´re not looking to be distracted. When they arrive, let them pee. You´ll be amazed how interested they get in the scenery once they´re done.