Google thought Google Buzz was a really smart idea. They thought so because Google employs geniuses and those geniuses got together to create it, test it and decide it was so. They didn’t think people would mind having all of their contacts opened up and revealed to the world. They didn’t think they’d mind because the PhDs at Google didn’t mind. They didn’t think it was an invasion of privacy or possibly dangerous because they live in a different world than the rest of us.
Last week Internet users searched for [facebook login] and, for reasons I’m still not sure of, came to believe that ReadWriteWeb was the new version of Facebook they were all hearing about. They believed it because that’s what came up in their search and users trust search. Those same users then got really angry when they couldn’t figure out how to get to their Facebook walls, because, you know, THEY WEREN’T ON FACEBOOK! They were on a tech news site. Users were so confused that RWW had to write an article explaining that they weren’t Facebook and that if searches wanted to get to Facebook, that they should go to facebook.com.
That really happened.
I know that it sounds ludicrous that Google didn’t consider privacy implications with Google Buzz or that users could mistake a tech news site as being Facebook, but this stuff happens every day. It happens when businesses assume that their customers live in the same bubble that they do. It happens when we create new features, write content and address problems in ways that make sense to the egg heads in our bubble, but read like hieroglyphics to everyone outside of it.
Your target market is not the people in your bubble. Your market is the non-bubble people. The ‘normal’ people. The casual users. That’s who you’re trying to talk to. And you’ve probably forgotten how to speak their language because you’ve spent so many years living in the bubble. So, how do you relearn it?
Ask Them: Yes, I know it is a novel concept, but ask your customers what they want. Ask them what makes sense to them and what doesn’t? What do they find to be a problem in your current set up and what do they like? What do they call this object or that answer? How would they search for it? People like to be asked their opinion, especially when you do it proactively instead of retroactively. Invite some of your most vocal customers or the folks who have been with you for years and get their take on things. They’ll be able to give you a view of your business that you can’t see by yourself.
Use Analytics: Use your analytics to begin to understand user behavior. Take a look at what keywords searchers are using to land on your site. Are they the same ones you’re optimizing for? Use your analytics to find patterns of behavior and common places where searchers are abandoning or getting stuck. Learn the pages on your site that aren’t answering the right questions or meeting their needs. Identify the pages users are landing on and whether they’re answering the questions customers are asking rather than what you thought they were asking.
Remote testing: Sometimes people lie. They don’t even always mean to do it, but they do. If you ask people how they get around your site, they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear or the option that makes them sound the smartest. They won’t admit to trouble areas or not understanding certain terminology. They may not want to tell you they got confused because that may mean there’s something wrong with them and not your site. To help get rid of the bias, do remote testing where you can watch people interacting with your site. This will allow you to spot discrepancies in what they say they do and what they really do. For example, I can keep telling people I’m looking for an emotionally stable boy to date, however, my dating pattern proves that I’m attracted to the psychotically broken ones. Same concept, you know?
We can all sit back and wonder what Google was thinking with Google Buzz or how anyone could mistake a blog for Facebook, but the reality is it’s not that shocking. Businesses miss the mark every day when they start looking at their business from their eyes instead of getting the street-view from customers. The people who live in your bubble cannot tell you how to connect with your customers just like TechMeme does not give you an accurate view of the how normal people perceive the tech world. You only get that from outside the bubble. Don’t live in there. The money, and your customers, are waiting on the other side.