Text is cheap

09Nov10

A few days ago, I needed to look up an old support case that we had logged with a vendor. Their website keeps a record of all the historical cases, and it was easy to locate the right one. But when I opened up the page for that case, only the most recent set of comments was visible. All the other comments, including the initial description of the case, were hidden by default. In order to make each one appear, I had to click a link to show the original info, which became rather tedious after a half dozen or so repetitions.

Why would this vendor’s website hide so much of the text? I’m guessing their case management software was designed back in the days of dial-up connections, when even a few paragraphs of text could make a measurable difference in page load times. By hiding what they considered to be the less-important comments on the case history page and providing a way to load the extra info with a few clicks, the original programmers probably thought they were doing users a huge favor.

In today’s broadband world, text is cheap. In other words, the cost of adding more text to a page — in terms of load times — is negligible. Customers are accustomed to websites that deliver all the info they need in an instant. Not only do pages need to load quickly on a typical broadband connection, but those pages need to present the information people want from the moment the page appears. By forcing customers to click a bunch of times just to see text that should already be on the page, you’re just wasting their time.

So if you’ve got any really old websites in your stable, be on the lookout for excessive use of links like “Show more”, “Expand this comment”, or “View entire text”. By removing those links and just showing the entire block of text, you’ll give people more of what they’re looking for. In turn, they’ll be far more likely to associate your brand with speed, efficiency and other positive attributes that contribute to long-term loyalty and sales growth.



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