On a recent trip to the local Starbucks I was approached by a young girl selling Girl Scout cookies. In training for the Shamrock Run meant I couldn’t be interested, but it got me thinking about available flavors. So, online I went to find them. This process led me to new insight on how the Web is working better. First, consider my experience:
I Goo’d the Girl Scouts and jumped to a home page containing (many logos and other graphics) a graphic promo for the cookies. Clicking on the promo, landed me on the main cookies page, which shows a Zip Code search form, and displays a sign-up form to be contacted by telephone (huh?) for more information. Continuing to wonder what cookies they’re selling, I found an obscure link on the page that led to what must be an old cookie site, the one before the ad agency redesigned the home page. Links and text galore. Only problem: there is no mention of the actual types of cookies being sold.
Frustrated, I gave up on the site. So, the Girl Scouts were able to hire a colorful designer to spruce up the look and feel of the site, but the customer experience was lacking the basics.
At this point I went to Wikipedia and searched for “girl scout cookies”. The first result, wham: Girl Scout Cookie – Wikipedia
The page, after history and overview, shows “Varieties of Cookies”. And there was my answer. One search on Wikipedia got me to a community-driven page that answered my questions faster and easier than an organizationally-driven site, showing successive layers of expensive redesigns with competing interests of design, marketing, and branding. Wikipedia, free from all political concerns of the organization, just showed the information that I (customers) care about.
I’ve concluded that the Web is working better – due to sites like Wikipedia delivering what I want, despite what any particular organization may be able to produce.
This does prove a point about branding online: the brand is the customer experience, not the colors, logos or saying marks. The Girl Scouts site has all the “right” colors and graphics. I assume they attempted to create an emotional bond/experience for the user (using words I’ve heard from branding consultants). Wikipedia, on the other hand, just delivers the information in black text, on a white background, with blue text links. In spite of Wikipedia’s digression from the official Girl Scouts brand guidelines, I was able to recover emotionally, read up on the flavors, and consider purchasing an order for post Shamrock run.
My thinking is that a good rule of thumb for any significant website redesign is that you first compare how hard it is to find your most basic, important information on the site, versus on Wikipedia. If Wikipedia is easier, then reconsider options.
What’s your customer experience?