June 25, 2009 Leave a comment
This video by Google illustrates several issues that have been plaguing product and brand managers, UxDs (user-experience designers) and IAs (information architects) and most obviously, the general public. Google asks “What is a browser,” only to find that less than 8% of those polled have an understanding of the term. (It is, by the way, “a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web” – Wikipedia; e.g. Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (The big blue ‘E’))
For those of us concerned with brand definition, the example is clear: Google checks to see if people understand how Chrome is better even have a basic understanding of the term “browser,” and find that the confusion has hardly cleared up over the past 15 years, since graphical browser use became widespread in the mid-’90s. Back then, users thought they “used Yahoo!” to surf the information superhighway, and as we see here, they still believe the same.
For Google Chrome achieve any penetration in this market, the big G needs to focus on not only defining and demonstrating Chrome’s unique value, but also educating the public on the very basic concepts of “browsing,” and “applications.” This is no small task, as Firefox has long been fighting this battle and making slow gains against the IE giant, mostly through word-of-mouth from passionate advocates, again illustrated in the Google video. (I, personally, have done this on many occasions, wiping IE from friends’ and families’ hard drives in a Firefox coup.)
For those of us concerned with interface design, the interviews illustrate the need for simplicity. This video may make you consider an edit or two if your web site copy includes the call-to-action “Download to your browser,” or similar industry-insider phrases. On a more macro level, the interviews highlight the importance of maintaining a holistic view of the web experience.
If your users don’t really understand what a browser is, do they know when they are on your web site, or is your vanity URL confusing this; perhaps they’re on an “unofficial” site created by a passionate fan?
If your users don’t really understand what a browser is, do they think they have to come through Google or Yahoo! to reach your site? Do you show up (positively) there?
If your users don’t really understand what a browser is, are they savvy enough to find their way through your site; are they stymied by nomenclature that is cloaked in your brand’s jargon or Internet industry jargon?
I don’t care what a browser is.
Ultimately, this video illustrates the fact that people don’t really care how they get what they want online, just that they get it. The best thing your brand, product or digital experience can do is make it easy and understandable for your customers.
So for product and brand managers; UxDs and IAs, the questions become, does your market know what your brand promises? Do they know what your product does? Do they know what that button does or where that link goes?
Or, does your market make assumptions about your product, lumping it in with a lesser offering, mistaking it for your competition, or for a completely different idea?
If so, you have a lot of work to do. Maybe it’s time to hit the pavement and get some real insight from real customers.