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Reassuring Users by Meeting Expectations

By: Ciaran Levingston
Date: September, 2012
File under: Articles

In some recent projects we got some interesting feedback that was yet another reminder to us of the importance of meeting the user’s expectations (in this case, when implementing registration and checkout forms). Meeting the user’s expectations is nothing new in usability but we noted some interesting reasoning and emotions behind negative feedback that related to the way that the processes worked.  On the surface participants commented that the interface didn’t behave in the way that they expected or had experienced on other websites, but was clear that the interactions caused the type of negative feelings that can impact satisfaction overall.

Upfront registration

We tested a website that required the user to register before adding products to a shopping cart which caused some frustration. They commented that registration before completing the shopping experience was more hassle and felt like unnecessary work when compared to registering after they had finished shopping on the website. The registration form was succinct and worked reasonably well, however, the fact that it came before the user had finished shopping made it feel like more work than doing the same registration at the checkout.

Not requiring traditional contact information when a transaction is performed made participants nervous.
We tested a transactional process that only required an email address as contact information when signing up for a two year contract. This made some participants nervous that the provider would not be able to contact them in the course of what was they perceived to be an extended contract. It was interesting that these participants supplied additional contact information even though it was not required and were comforted somewhat in doing so.

The end point of an online transaction is the receipt

Similar to a face-to-face transaction, there was a very clear expectation that the user would be provided with something to take away from the process where a transaction or commitment to a contract takes place online. This is the user’s receipt for the payment or agreement to sign-up to the contract and where it wasn’t provided, participants felt a little unsure what had happened and commented that they would have nothing to refer to at a later date.

We know that not meeting the user’s expectations often causes problems but it was interesting to note how subtle changes to the user’s expected workflow can cause anxiety.

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