The following is a guest article by Catherine Ahern, Web editor of Briefings Media Group.
The other day I had to go to one of my least favorite places in the world: the Department of Motor Vehicles. To be fair, the past few times I’ve gone haven’t been that horrible, but still, I dread trips to the DMV more than going to the dentist, and that says a lot.
One of the reasons that my last few trips have been better is that I’ve obsessively researched everything I needed before I showed up. In the past, my problem has always been that I looked on the DMV’s website, followed the directions and then showed up missing some key component that wasn’t listed online (or wasn’t listed in an obvious place). The receptionist would inform me that I’d have to come back and start the process over, which was always infuriating after waiting in line for an hour or more. For example, on one recent trip, I saw online that I needed to two forms of identification. One of the acceptable forms listed was “birth certificate.” I learned when I arrived, however, that my birth certificate—which is more of a wallet-sized, laminated card than a certificate, but still a state-issued, legal document—wasn’t acceptable. Luckily I had my Social Security card with me too; otherwise it would have meant a trip home and another wait in line.
Now I carefully check the site and then Google my questions to find out what “surprises” other people have had. Usually that covers everything, and I come prepared.
On this past visit, I arrived 30 minutes before the office opened, so I was the fifth person in line, but I was the first to be issued a number to speak with a representative. Why? The four people in front of me didn’t have everything they needed. They left frustrated—some of them very vocal about it. One woman whose wallet had been stolen the day before loudly complained that she searched the website for information about “stolen driver’s licenses” but couldn’t find anything. Another man swore that the site indicated he needed to pick up paperwork to take a class, while the receptionist swore that there were no such forms. He left in a huff.
The woman at the desk was annoyed too. I imagine that in her mind, those four people didn’t do their part to look up the necessary requirements for whatever it was they wanted.
But when four of the first five people aren’t prepared, there’s a problem with the system.
In its defense, the DMV performs a lot of services, so it’s not surprising that the website is quite complicated. However, if the department did a careful review of it, I’m positive it could find ways to streamline and clarify much of the site.
Take some time to check your organization’s website. Is it as user-friendly as it could be? Explore it from the point of view of someone who’s unfamiliar with your organization, or better yet, ask people who really are unfamiliar to review it. Would they be able to find what they needed? Would they have to ask for assistance? Would they just give up and move on?
If the information is unclear, prospective customers will probably do one of two things: contact your organization for clarification or take their business elsewhere. Of the two, I suppose the latter is worse, but the former isn’t ideal either.
Every time someone has to contact you or your organization to ask a question that could easily be answered on your website, that wastes time and increases frustration—for everyone involved. So take some time to audit your website. You’ll save your customers a headache and, in turn, save yourself one too.
What are your biggest website frustrations?
[Image source: ADinfinitum, Catherine Ahern]