There is an old and widely-accepted wisdom along the lines of “don’t make it difficult for your customers to do business with you”.
That saying has its origins long before the advent of information technology. It is though, as true today as it ever was and it has particular implications for organisations selling across the electronic channels.
At one time, designing what used to be called the “human-machine interface” was relatively straightforward. By and large, the software delivered its information to a screen that was a roughly standard size and based upon very limited and standardised technical definitions.
The first great challenge to that comfortable model arrived with the PC. Suddenly screens could be different sizes and based upon fundamentally different technologies. Then later came yet further challenges for the software engineers when laptops, tablets and eventually smart phones arrived.
Suddenly, information had been delivered into a multiplicity of technical environments and screen sizes.
At CSI Media, as travel website designers, we know that travel companies typically prefer that their branding and their “look and feel” have a commonality across customer engagement channels. Once again, that isn’t new either.
For perhaps a century, if you went into one high street travel agent you expected its materials and processes to be broadly similar to another branch of the same organisation in a different town. However, with 21st century technology, that’s not always easy to achieve.
Let’s consider the screen of a typical smart phone and desktop PC. They are clearly very different sizes and the way human psychology reacts to the presence of information varies hugely depending upon how it is presented to them.
So the challenge for software designers is to try and ensure that the look and feel of a travel company’s propositions is as near identical as possible, whether the client engagement is based upon a smart phone or any other technical device including the eponymous desktop PC.
To put it bluntly, your potential customers do not want to have to do things significantly differently depending on which device they happen to choose to access your site through.
The above challenge isn’t quite as easy to deal with as it might appear.
Clearly, it’s possible to get far more information on a larger screen than a smaller one. If you design your customer interface with a large screen in mind and then simply make it available to smartphone devices by shrinking the page in size terms, you are likely to end up with text and information on the phone that is too small to be readable.
Most of us also know that the experience of “multiple scrolling” through screen after screen on the smartphone is not always rewarding!
A more scientific design approach adopted by top travel website designers is to re-conceive your proposition for electronic channels taking into account not just the disparate devices involved but also the psychological processes taking place with your customer. It’s necessary to ask questions such as:
It really involves far more than simply shrinking a screen that was originally designed for the desktop PC or Mac!
For travel website designers, the above re-design and engineering process is critically important.
If it doesn’t take place, there is a risk that travel companies will deliver different looks and experiences to customers on different devices. Equally a prototyping approach, whereby your design seems to change every week, can also be off-putting in terms of customer experience.
That is why it is important to have a design at the outset that accommodates all devices and which rethinks the fundamental nature of how you need to engage with your prospective clients on the web.