The User Interface

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Originally an entry in Colins Blog, now one of the random writings.

2006/12/14 The User Interface

I've been travelling - again - to do yet another maths talk. The talk was at midday, but a long way away, so instead of paying extortionate amounts to get through London mid-morning, I travelled the night before, stayed in London, then took a short train ride out.

There are some inexpensive hotels in London, but my experiences decidedly mixed. This time I decided to stay in an Ibis hotel. Reasonable rates, predictable room, adequate breakfast, I thought.

Well, tried to. After spending over 30 minutes on their web site trying to find a hotel near the station, then find one that had rooms, then find the nearest tube station, I finally gave up in utter disgust.

Then I tried the Premier Travel Inn.

What a difference!! The web site was a breeze to navigate, finding a hotel in the right place, with rooms available, was almost trivial, and booking was completed without a problem. It's clear that these people have done their homework, and trialled their own site, something the Ibis people have equally clearly never done.

Furthermore, the stay in the hotel was excellent. The staff were friendly, helpful and courteous, the room was comfortable and quiet, breakfast was very good, and the shower was bliss. I don't ask for much, but this hotel hit all the right buttons.

So much so that I've already booked my next stay. The time I saved is more than worth the money I might save to get a questionable stay in a less convenient location.

If I were staying for longer then I might be tempted to save a lot of money and find a cheaper hotel. Or I might decide to spend the same money and get more facilities But for a single night all I want is helpful staff, a quiet room, a comfortable bed, a good shower and an adequate breakfast. The Premier Travel Inn exceeded all my expectations, and will see more of my business.

There are lessons to learn here for every business.

!! TEST !!

Don't rely on designers to get the customer facing aspects of your business right. The only people who really know how good your interface is are the people who use it. You absolutely must try it for yourself. Is it really easy to use? Rope in some bystanders and get them to try it. Watch what they do wrong, and ask yourself how you can make the interface effortless. Formal usability testing may be a step too far, but at the very least get a few people to try it. And remember, not everyone thinks in the same way.


Know what you are
trying to achieve.

If you don't expect repeat business you can screw your customers for as much as possible. If, on the other hand, you believe that great service is the best advertising, make sure you exceed your customers' expectations.


What will you do
when your customers
are unhappy?

The convert is the best evangelist. Take an unhappy customer and make them happy.

You can't buy advertising that good.

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