06 September 2009

"The World's Ugliest Website" - Craigs List Lessons To The Wise

Oh Gerry McGovern does it again.

He takes apart one of the most successful but arguably ugliest websites around - Craigslist.

There is a lot of application from this article into the world of Travel. One of the biggest messages in his story is:

IT'S ALL ABOUT EXECUTION STUPID! Over and Over and Over again.

We have great websites that are cool and just focus on the aesthetics. Useless. Flash - Useless in most cases.

Great transaction websites are not about entertainment - a fact that seems to be lost on just about everyone on the push side of the equation.

I use craigslist like many other people. It is simple and straightforward AND I DON'T have to learn anything new. It's just there and it works.

However I have to say I was disappointed when I tried to use it in the UK. Content was useless and no one replied to my ads. However the UK equivalent seems to do just fine and did the job for me:

Gumtree - try if if you live in the UK. Its a little annoying in how it works barraging you with useless emails that only go to annoy.

And this goes to another point that Gerry makes that we should all learn. DO NOT ANNOY YOUR CUSTOMER.

There are numerous pieces written about how fickle the Web based consumer behaves differently than in the offline/real world. However I think that Gerry has hit on something that just about everyone has forgotten. Namely that it is not just about attracting but retaining a customer. Also don't assume (as everyone seems to do) that she/he wants to interact with you. In many cases they don't. Consider this. How many sites actually let opt out of ads, emails and general digital diarrhea junk that they throw at you. Today the amount of junk that comes our way is frankly frightening. Craigslist? Nada - just the facts ma'am.

So take the lesson to heart here. Now that we are reaching maturity in web terms - now we need to start to look at how much we are pissing off our customers and actually creating bad behavior such as driving people away and indeed causing the seemingly flighty behavior of the consumer. Yes folks I am actually saying that we are getting the customers we deserve.

And if I may - there is actually one group who seems to understand this - at least from a cursory point of view. OK so this will seem to be slightly left field but bear with me for a moment. The sector is the Porn industry. These chaps know that visitors don't just arrive there by accident. But they also recognize that the user doesn't want to be scammed with unnecessary emails and junk. One of my friends works in the ecommerce side of the Porn business and whether you like it or not they have been responsible for some of the best innovations on the web. He went to great pains to explain how this is a focus for (at least his company) to reduce the amount of unhappy customers so that they come back. Their focus is not so much on new punters but on returning customers has been on reducing things that upset or grate with the users.

Lessons we can all learn. Craigslist is definitely on my list of top ten performing sites. It is the only one that scores high on the "don't annoy me too much" scale. As for the design - well it isn't going to win any awards from me - but this Pinto gets me where I want to go just fine. Can your website say that?


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