Monday, May 05, 2003

Good Experience Live XII

Maryam Mohit: Good Web Customer Experience

Maryam Mohit is vice president of UI and product reviews for As such, she has been involved in Amazon's online customer experience, user interface, usability, consumer research, program management, design, and Web development. Here is a rough transcript of her talk at Good Experience Live:

What I know a little a bit about is creating good Web customer experiences. I've been at Amazon for about forever. One of the reasons I joined Amazon was because of a bad experience I had at E3 in 1995 at the LA Convention Center. There I was at E3 and the rage was all virtual reality. I said, you know what? I don't want to do this. I don't want to spend my time and whatever intellectual capital I have doing this, getting kids to spend time inside and in their computers. I'm going to figure out how to do something different with technology. How can we use technology to help people do less unpleasant things like drive to a shopping mall and parking and shorten those experiences. How can we spend more time outside and in the world?

9. Let the data drive. Whenever possible, it's better to make decisions based on statistics and quantitative data than just on an opinion. If everyone has an opinion, that's not really a useful way to spend our time. For example, we moved the Proceed to Checkout button from the left side to the right side because our tests showed a statistically significant difference. We're all on the same team. Let's let the best design win.

8. Measure the right things. If you're going to use a data-driven approach, it's really important to measure the right things. In spring 2000, our business had been growing really fast. We could no longer show all of our stores in a single row of tabs. So we added a second row of tabs. The Ziggurat of tabs was looming out there if we weren't careful. So we started working on a new mode of navigation. In fall 2000 we launched what we called personalized navigation. These five buttons included personalized stores based on your activity, as well as some stores we thought you would like. We got great quantitative statistics as well as great qualitative feedback. So we launched the new navigation. But as we used it over time, something just didn't feel right. We went back and investigated. We realized that we'd done the wrong experiment. We'd had too many variables in the experiment -- design and navigation plus personalization. There was another option: Keep the tabs, but add navigation. Being data driven is crucial but tricky. What are you really testing?

7. Listen to your customers. The point I want to make is that it's really important to listen to your customers when you don't want to hear what they have to say -- or when you don't like what they have to say. Or when they ask you to do something that's really hard. For years, customers would say to us that they loved browsing and shopping for books online, they really want to pick up the book and flip through it. We said that's too hard. It's a limitation of the medium. But we looked at it. And in 2001 we added a feature Look Inside the Book. You can read part of the first chapter. We would rather have you not buy a book than buy a book that you don't want. We want people to make the right decision when they buy a book. 90% of the people who used the feature said that it influenced their purchase decision. Doing this project was a really big pain in the butt. But listening to the customers was very important.

6. Innovate on their behalf. Use the expert knowledge that you have to innovate and make your customers' lives and experiences better. This is different than innovating to impress your friends and colleagues. The classic example at Amazon is one-click shopping. No customer ever came to us and said what I really want is one-click shopping. In fact, our first user tests made people really nervous. They thought that it was just a little too fast. We knew that people wanted fast easy shopping. One of the ways we modified the design was adding small parentheses that said, "You can always cancel it later." Another more recent example is Listmania. The idea behind Listmania is that it's a community-driven list-building feature. You can make a list of items that surface along with relevant search results. Again, this isn't something that someone asked for.

Mark's giving me the time signal, so I'm going to skip ahead.

2. Don't let your org chart show on your home page. There's no reason search is on the left side on some pages and on the right here other than that different teams built different parts of the site at different times. It's one customer. It's one Web site. It's one experience. Customers don't care who built one part of the site.

1. It's not just about the Web. It's about the 360-degree customer experience.

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