Think about the consumer – hero the search box

Google have trained us to be impatient. We go to a website and expect to find the information we want or something that will lead us to the results quickly. If we don’t get what we expect, we start to get annoyed and bounce off the site looking somewhere else for the information we need. More often than not, we bounce to a competitors website. If they have the information we need, we stay and research more. If not, we continue the search pattern until we find what we need.

As consumers, we know our own site behaviour and research habits, so why isn’t that influencing us in our website designs. Both agencies and clients get so caught up in making sure the site is pushing the best creative or as much copy as we can rather than thinking about the consumer. The consumer is the real reason we build sites and when they arrive at a site, normally, want to get in and get out of a site really quickly (with a better understanding about the product/service).

The majority of sites are developed to sell something or provide information so consumers can make an informed decision about a product/service, however, we (agency and client) try to push the information we think consumers want rather than understanding their mindset or purpose for visiting the site. One of my favourite examples of how this has been flipped on its head is with the VW UK website.

This site really thinks about the consumer and why they have come to the site. It understands the mindset and the reasons they have visited. It provides clear reference links through to deeper content that is relevant to different audiences. Those five statements show that VW understands its audience.

VW UK website as at 17 September 2008

VW UK website as at 17 September 2008

VW website audience statements as at 17 September 2008

VW website audience statements as at 17 September 2008

Another company that gets its online audience is ZAAZ. This has been one of my favourite websites since it launched last year. It is applying the Google principle that audience control (consumer control) is key when visiting a site. As soon as the site loads, you have the option of surfing through the navigation available or asking a question that will immediately take you to the search results you are looking for.

ZAAZ home page

ZAAZ home page

On the home page, I typed in what is data smog. The response to this question is in the screen grab below. It provided a brief overview and links to areas of the site that can provide more information. I love it because it means you can get in and out of a site really quickly without wasting time looking for content that you think would be easy to find.

ZAAZ home page response

ZAAZ home page response


How can we apply this to our clients? Quite easily.

  • When you get a brief for a website (even if it is just a refresh), think about why someone is visiting the site. Break it down into five key areas and see if there is a question or a statement that summarises it and would make it easy for the consumer.
  • Make the search box a hero on the site. Consumers are comfortable with search, so take advantage of it. Not only is it a great way for consumers to get the information they need quickly, but it’s also a good research tool for companies: What content is important? How can we highlight that information? Is there a campaign we can create around that content?

Key theme: think about the audience.

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2 Responses to Think about the consumer – hero the search box

  1. Ben says:

    The model selection engine on the VW site is wicked. One of the most usable and best looking examples I’ve come across.

  2. Jason says:

    Hi Dominique, Thanks for the kind words about the site! I can tell you that we have a lot of fun internally looking at the queries we get for our search box. You learn a lot (good and bad) when you give control back to the viewer.

    Be sure to come visit us if you ever find yourself in Seattle.

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