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Avoiding Pain. The Constricted Web Experience.

02-13-12 Jän Ostendorf

Jän offers a unique perspective on responsive and standards-driven web design with a peek into the bigger picture of brand loyalty.

We’ve all been there. You’re on your phone attempting to look at a website for a product or service – pinching, zooming, swiping to find the information you want. You get frustrated and close the window.

Do businesses consider what this customer experience is doing to their brand? How this impacts the opinions of their current and potential customers? Whether this is driving business away or possibly toward their competitors? I don’t think many do.

Obviously, the best solution is to deliver a web experience that is optimized for mobile devices (or any size device for that matter). And, yes, that means building a site the right way—standards-compliant, responsive, with progressive enhancement and all the other good stuff. However, I’m not sure many people, especially the decision-makers, really understand why it’s important to build a site the right way. Let’s unpack this.

The Psychology of Learning

We learn from a very young age to avoid things we dislike or that cause us pain. In the same regard, we are attracted to things which give us pleasure, physically or emotionally. As an infant, you hit your foot on a piece of furniture while learning to walk, and you learned to be more careful of sharp corners in the future. When you are tired or sick, you want to be held and comforted. I know this sounds primal and disconnected from personality, but that’s because it is. It subconsciously drives our choices and actions.

Technology’s Role

Now, in light of the psychology of learning, we can understand why there exists loyalty (or disdain) for certain brands. If we interact with technology and the experience is unpleasant, we build neural pathways in our brains for future avoidance. If we have a pleasurable experience, we will be back for more. When we need a little endorphin high, we’ll come back sooner rather than later, hence shop-a-holics, fanboys, etc.

I recently read an article that quoted Bob Borchers, former Apple iPhone product marketing engineer. He stated that Steve Jobs launched the start of the iPhone project with this simple charge, “I want you to create the first phone that people would fall in love with.” He didn’t mention apps, touch screens, or email. Steve talked to the why of owning, purchasing, and using a product.

Apple aims to please, delight, and make every brand experience a pleasurable one. From walking into their stores to holding the glass-on-metal iPhone in your hand to using one of their software products, every brand touchpoint is crafted to perfection. Their primary goal is not to create the most useful and powerful electronic products on the market. Their aim is to make people love Apple products.

The Business Case

Is it worth the time and investment to obsess over every pixel and line of code of your website? To ensure it meets web standards? To build it responsively? Of course it is. You cannot control when, how, and on what device a potential customer will view and interact with your brand, but you can control whether this unique user experience is good or bad.

As with most businesses, your corporate website is one of the most frequently experienced elements of your brand. It is often the first impression after a search for product or service. It doesn’t make business sense for a company to create a site that becomes a poor, constricted experience on a mobile device. Honestly, it’s like printing brochures at the size of business cards. It completely destroys the brand experience.

It is of utmost importance to craft a beautiful, functional website that is congruent with your brand. Non-congruency subconsciously communicates distrust and unreliability. Every customer touch point is important. Each interaction builds (or degrades) your brand.

The Big Question

Is your website a pleasure to interact with? Does it display well on every device? Will it make your customers want to return? Remember, people will avoid discomfort by nature. Ask yourself, who will provide the best experience, you or your competitors?

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A portrait of Vice President of Business Development, Katie Jennings.

Katie Jennings

Vice President of Business Development