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Trials of modern living: 5

It’s all about you,
All about you,
It’s all about you, baby

If the measure of a successful presentation is to make your audience feel as though you are talking directly to them or about them, then Charlotte Graham-Cumming hit the jackpot with hers last Friday.

It’s not often that I sit in a presentation and want to put my hand up all the way through say ‘Yup, that’s me. Yes I do that. Yes, me too’. All the way through.

Graham-Cumming, managing director of marketing consultancy iceblue, was sharing the stage at the NMBS Conference with Parker Building Supplies’ Stewart Pierce, (and later, in a breakout masterclass with Jamie Pierce) looking at merchanting online issues.

I’ve blogged before about the way that modern life – specifically modern online life seems to be designed to be as frustrating as it possibly can be.

The section of pretty much any ecommerce website that I use which gets the most clicks from me is the Forgotten Password. Each site seems to have its own ideas about the right sort of password to use – numbers, letters, uppercase, lowercase. And, in the case of iTunes, it seems to remember every single password that I have ever used on an Apple device (how, Lord only knows because I can’t!) and tells me that I can’t change to that one because I’ve already used it.

Ever found yourself screaming at an inanimate object “I know I’ve used it before. It’s because it’s the only one I can pigging well remember”? Then you’ll know where I’m coming from.

Graham-Cumming talked about the people who save stuff in their virtual baskets and then never actually bother to checkout. I do that. She mentioned the people who get as far as the checkout and ditch the sale as they then realise they are going to have to pay a zillion quid to get it delivered on Wednesday only for it not to fit through the letterbox, thereby entailing a 10-mile round trip to the only local Royal Mail sorting office left open in the county. Yes, that’ll be me. And she also highlighted the saps who give up when they realise they will be required to register and think up yet another password that they haven’t a hope in hell of remembering. Agaiin, something I am familiar with.

I know that all this password shenanigans is, ultimately, all about safeguarding our personal financial data and information. It stands to reason that if I only ever use ‘password’ or my birthday, then my details are less safe from hackers than they would be if I came up with a random combination of symbols, cases and words. This is for my own good. I get that. But, I also have a lot of other stuff to remember and the reason so many of us use easy to work out passwords is because they are also easy to remember.

People are basically lazy. That’s why the internet has been such a blessing to them. As Graham-Cumming pointed out in her presentation, the average reading age in the UK is 10 years old – scary as that sounds – and that is why forms and ecommerce programs should be made as easy to follow as possible.

“The easier you make it for people, the more likely they are to continue with your site to make their purchase” she told delegates. And, after all, isn’t that what we spend all this time, money and effort on these sites to encourage?

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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