Why do the same thing twice?

24th April 2019 / by Richard Gray

So I was booking a table in a restaurant the other night – nothing fancy, just something easy with the kids. The website had a ‘book a table’ feature and as I’d just done a quick web search for where I wanted to go I figured I’d just do that as phone them.

The site had a nice, easy to understand interface:

Restaurant booking - usability issues sample 1

The address was on the left (with a handy ‘Directions’ button), the name of the restaurant was clearly displayed at the top of the page above the very visible ‘Book a table’ button.

All good so far. Top marks for a quality user experience: everything was labelled as you’d expect and everything was where you’d expect (or want) it to be.

Only once you click on the ‘Book a table’ button you get this:

Restaurant booking - usability issues sample 2

And you’re asked to select a restaurant.

Well, um, how about the one I’m already looking at? The one I’ve already selected.

Don’t make me have to think again about the restaurant I want to book – I’m looking at it. I’m on its page. I’ve already told you which one I want to book. Why might I want to book a different restaurant to the ONE I’M ALREADY LOOKING AT!!?

The website’s now introduced both elements of annoyance & risk.

Annoyance that I have to think again – I’ve already done my thinking. I’ve selected my restaurant. Now I’m annoyed that I have to find it again in a list. And I can’t type the first character of the restaurant’s name either to jump straight to the item in the list as they’re all prefixed with the word ‘Beefeater’ – they all effectively begin with ‘B’! That doesn’t help me at all.

So I now have to remember the name of the restaurant (which of course is obscured by the pop up box – close the box, look at the restaurant name, remember it, open the box again) and then find it in the list. Again. The text is tiny and there’s a (small, I admit) risk of selecting the wrong restaurant by mistake. But the risk principle is there – you’re asking people to select something again which could be mis-selected by mistake.

Now I’m annoyed and I’m already thinking ‘ranty blog post’.

After entering my details I’m presented with the booking summary:

Restaurant booking - usability issues sample 3

Helpful? Sort of – the thing I would have found even more helpful is the day on which the booking was made.

When booking restaurants I don’t think in terms of dates – I think in terms of days. I want a table for four on Thursday night or a table for two on Saturday, not a table for four on 18 April 2019.

Personally I would have had it show:

Number of people: 4 people
Booking date & time: Thursday, 18th April 2019 at 18:00.

Then at a glance I know I’ve done it correctly – four people on Thursday is what I read first, then I just double check the date – 18th, yes.

So wherever and whenever possible (which should always be always) put yourself in the shoes of your customer and try to see your website or feature through their eyes.

Ask yourself what’s important to them – what do they want now and what will they want next?

What is the most important information you can show them at each step of the way.

Don’t confuse them with too much information, but don’t hide away what they need either. Get to the core of what they need and give it to them in a helpful way that makes them relax and think “that was a good experience…”

Then everyone will be happy.

Even me.

Rich's Rants

Why do the same thing twice?

Asking your users to do the same thing twice just makes them annoyed and adds risk to the process.

Put things where people expect to find them

Like small children and lost toys, your website should put things where people expect to find them.

Don't confuse with colour

Putting aside the colour blindness issues of using colour to illustrate state, for those of us who aren't colour blind, please use colour in a way that makes sense.

Why apostrophes matter

I was asked one morning whether I thought that using apostrophes correctly really mattered.

Show you care

Show your users that you care about the small things and it will show that you care about the big things too.

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