Posted by: communicationcloud | July 27, 2010

12 causes of poor findability

Poor findability makes for poor customer experience

I attended an “online customer experience management” event recently, with a large group of people involved in this area, from a wide range of different industries.

We saw 5 case studies of customer experience – all major global companies. The inability to find information was in the top 5 customer experience issues discovered in 4 out of 5 of these.

Red Gate weren’t presenting at this event, but these case studies match with our own findings. When we decided to start working on improving online self-service last year, we also found that the inability to find information on the site was right at the top of our to-do list.

We’ve done a lot of investigation into our findability issues within our own site, and found a range of common causes.

12 causes of poor findability

In no particular order…

  1. Bad or poorly configured search engine
  2. Unusable navigation elements
  3. Missing content (you can’t find it if it’s not there!)
  4. Complex/unhelpful information architecture
  5. Mismatch between company terminology and customers’ terminology
  6. Content not “tuned” to be found by site search (e.g. titles, metadata)
  7. “Hidden” pages – e.g. pages that you can only access via a link from a specific page
  8. Poorly formatted content – the information is there but not findable
  9. Poor page titles (results in unhelpful search results / navigation headings)
  10. Poorly formatted search results – no hope of spotting a relevant result
  11. Broken links
  12. Implementing a one-off, once-and-for-all fix for findability.

This last cause is really the fundamental one in most case studies I’ve come across (including Red Gate): acting as if findability is a problem you can fix once, and then not deal with again. Well-intentioned businesses introduce a new search engine or site architecture and navigation, tweak thoroughly until it’s working really well … and then consider the problem solved. Meanwhile their content and their users’ intentions have moved on, and findability begins to creep down hill…

A continuous improvement strategy for improving findability

Watch this space for an overview of how we identified these causes, and our strategy for addressing them. I’ll be covering it in a blog post very soon.

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