Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Vive la difference

Last night, my boyfriend and I were looking online for some Christmas gift inspiration. It struck me that we use the internet in completely different ways, and I am sure I am not alone in noting how frustrating it is to watch someone else shop online.

For one thing, he never—and I mean never ever—types the URL straight into the address bar. Even if he knows it, and even if it’s Amazon! He uses Google for everything (yes, Google specifically, no other search engine will do). At least now I have trained him not to automatically click on the paid-search links and instead look through the organic search results first. I imagine Google’s fortune is largely made up of lazy customers clicking on paid links instead of typing the merchants’ URLs directly into the address bar.

When he doesn’t know where to buy the item he’s looking for he’ll type it into Google and use Google’s product search. I tend to use a comparison site like Kelkoo, a marketplace or eBay, or if I know a shop that might do it, I’d search for that seller and see what else comes up on the page. I also like to use Quidco, which my boyfriend thinks is a waste of time. (We’ll see if he still thinks that after I buy a tasty takeaway for us both with the saving I made on home insurance)

Tabs are another bone of contention. Say a search has thrown up several different options, I personally like to open each page in a new tab, assess each one and close the tab once I know I no longer need it. That’s not how he does it. He loathes having more than three tabs open at once. He thinks it makes the machine run slower, and for all I know it might, but I like it my way.

When we’ve settled on a product but don’t want to buy it straight away I like to bookmark the product using the social-media widgets. He didn’t even know what the “Addthis” button did. I am proud to have imparted some of my web wisdom onto him. I love the Addthis button. I use it all the time to send myself product reminders and send him suggestions. My boyfriend prefers to either save his basket, manually add the page to his favourites, or write the product number down somewhere. What we both agree on however, is that more websites should give you the ability to save the basket and return to it another time from another computer.

Luckily my boyfriend isn’t so trigger happy that he completes the checkout process without looking for discount codes first. At first I thought it was a girly thing to do, but now anecdotal evidence shows more men are now coming round to the idea of searching for vouchers.

What all this goes to show is that you can never assume that because you shop online one way, your husband, colleague, or customer will do the same. Even more important is user testing. It might be frustrating to watch people double-click a web link on your site, but unless you know how your customers want to shop with you, you'll leave a gap that your competitor will fill.—MT

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