Mind the [technology] Gap

Updates are great! Shiny new website are beautiful! Fabulous graphics are invigorating! Interactive tools are super helpful!  And a slow internet connection or outdated technology can ruin all of that in less than a minute… specifically that minute that you’re sitting there waiting for this fancy new website to load.

I’m talking about The [technology] Gap: When a  newly developed, cutting edge website is a few steps beyond capabilities of some of the users.  You know, the users who are using Windows 98 and haven’t updated Internet Explorer or Chrome (Chrome? What’s Chrome?) since they first installed the browsers on their computers.  Or the users in cubicle land whose networks are built to support relatively small, internal programs, not surfing content-heavy websites.

Then you have these guys. Toolbar overload.  Does this image make anybody else  have a panic attack or is that just me…

So if you’re developing technology-required tools for your customers, what do you do?  Cater to the slowest of your clients?  Or force them to catch up and risk pissing them off in the process?  [From personal experience: Telling me I need to download something in order to view content or do what I am trying to do results in me leaving the site at least 50% of the time, especially if I am busy. Heck, I have done the e-commerce-dreaded “cart abandon” on sites that require me to fill out a registration in order to complete a transaction. I need to be a very motivated customer in order to jump through any additional hoops.  However, if it’s a slow-network issue in the office or coffee shop, there’s not much the I can do about it, no matter how motivated I am.]  How does a company go about keeping a fresh, updated, and useful site while their users are using so many different levels of technology?  Today’s consumers are a huge mix of early adapters (mobile friendly sites, please?), late adapters, and maybe-never adapters (What? You want an email address? Here’s my fax number.).  This definitely varies from industry to industry but I’m curious what the different approaches are.

I’m optimistic that there is a happy medium of educating your customers while continuing to update your resources and remain cutting edge.   Beyond that, developing *streamline* sites and tools should always be a priority.  The overall “User Experience” is more than a catch phrase that we talked about in MBA classes… it’s a real thing, an important thing, the whole package.  Having a frustrating experience on a company’s website, even if that frustration is the customer’s own fault, is not a good thing.  Obvious, right, but it seems to be one of those *perspective* things that gets overlooked sometimes.

So here’s the Alissa Jean Tuesday Take-Away:  Find that happy medium, help your clients advance with you, and keep in mind that THEY are your audience/user/customer/reason your company exists.

Now accepting tips for finding happy mediums.

Always, Alissa Jean

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