The SpoolCast with Jared Spool

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Episode #80 Managing Sites for Top Tasks

September 4, 2009  ·  36 minutes

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One of the most popular speakers in the history of our User Interface Conference is Gerry McGovern. Certainly most of that popularity is thanks to Gerry's no-nonsense, customer-centric approach to content management strategy. Gerry joins us in this podcast to discuss customer care words and managing top tasks.

Show Notes

One of the most popular speakers in the history of our User Interface Conference is Gerry McGovern. Certainly most of that popularity is thanks to Gerry's no-nonsense, customer-centric approach to content management strategy. Perhaps a small portion is due to his dulcet Irish brogue. Gerry coined the term "customer care words", which are distinct words and phrases that visitors are looking for that lead them to success and satisfaction. This is complimentary to a concept we at UIE call "trigger words", but not quite the same. Trigger words are content-related and navigational–words that help lead you along the path to what you seek. Care words are task-related not content-related; they are the words that visitors need to see to complete the task they are on your site for. These words are not always found in your search logs or in keywords that have led people from Google to your site. But, through polling, testing and observation, care words can be discovered.

Customer care words are both a concept and a eponymous technique that Gerry uses with his clients. When enough participants take part in his processes, his technique both shows top words people are attracted to and, perhaps more importantly, reveals the top tasks the customers are visiting the site to accomplish.

Top task management, quite simply, is what Gerry thinks your site's whole design should revolve around. Most site owners view their sites as places that house information, but your visitors are on your site to accomplish a task. You should optimize your site, mostly through language, so that it excels in helping visitors accomplish their most common tasks. Traditional site management concentrates on technology, like search engines, and content. But all site projects should ultimately be judged by the satisfaction and success of the users... not by whether your new CMS transition went technically well.

Once the content management system is in place, many organizations write and publish copy without knowing how it will be used. Optimizing your content for top tasks can produce increases in customer satisfaction and task completion. Gerry has seen this with many of his own clients, some of whom were skeptical at first. The biggest objection to optimizing for top tasks is the fear that your customers look to do many things on your site, not just these top tasks. However, if customers have trouble with their common tasks, why would they trust your site to dive into the other ones? In some cases, the top tasks weren't the most obvious ones to site owners, underlining the importance of both talking to your customers and observing users on your site regularly.

Measuring your customers' success rate, time-to-completion and their disaster rate–when they think they've successfully completed their task, but actually have not–will show you whether or not your changes are beneficial. What's key is to measure and to revisit these areas until we have them right. Too often, Gerry says, there's a culture of "launch and leave" with sites: build it and then never revise. Constant, incremental improvement is a better culture to work towards. Gerry has seen seen customer satisfaction rates "sky-rocket" after such changes.

There's so much more Gerry and I discussed. Please listen to him in his own words on the podcast; your customers will thank you.