‘The devil is in the detail’ is a saying that gets a lot of use … and rightly so. But all too often it is at the expense of the overall story to which the detail belongs; without the detail, there is no story but without the story, there is no detail (who else just thought of the Chicken and Egg scenario?!).
I recently had a brief and friendly discussion with a supplier and, like any good business, they are aware that improvements can be made to help themselves and their customers. This is great news and I hope that the improvements make a positive difference for them.
But, there was something that worried me a little that doesn’t fill me with confidence that they will benefit from the changes. They focused on one small and insignificant problem (a detail) whereas the problem was actually the whole process (the story), but there was no acknowledgement of an issue with the process, quite the opposite in fact!
Among the several points I raised about their sales process, there was one about a data capture form on their website which includes a host of different fields. In UX / IxD circles, there is a school of thought that you should only capture data that is essential to the process that is being followed at that time – there are many reasons for this which I won’t go into here, but this post explains it well.
Anyway, what I said;
… in order to evaluate the software, I need to give away a significant amount of valuable personal information …
What they said;
… I did not realize that you felt we required all the information in the download form completed. The only field needed is an email address but that sure could be made more evident to a user.
The issue is with the process, not the fact that a bloody * or however you want to denote mandatory fields are not on the form. But why do you need non-mandatory fields on a form in the first place?! (sorry … mini rant over).
This is simple User eXperience stuff … for an astute or professional person maybe. It is unfair to expect everyone one who runs a business to know everything there is about the interwebnet, but the business also needs to be aware of the exact same thing but from their own perspective; be aware they don’t know everything about the interwebnet and might need a hand from someone who does.
But, there is another issue at play here, the one where they ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ (wow, three clichés in one post).
Have you ever spent days on an assignment getting the spelling, grammar and punctuation perfect, but have a gut feeling something just isn’t right? You pass it to someone to proof read who, within minutes, raises one simple and obvious point that fundamentally undermines the whole assignment? Ooof, I can feel the torment of your memory from here! This is the ‘Wood for Trees’ scenario and you have just been shown the path out of the woods … the one that was there all along. Hopefully planned your time utilised the proof reader with enough time to spare before your assignment was due, just in case – you’ve made that mistake before and it hurt.
The supplier above fits into the wood for trees category very well. They appear to be caught up in their own methods and processes (possibly because they have hefty details to consider like human resource), that when some constructive observations are made, they either rule out or completely miss the theme of the points (the moral of the story) and are then left to pick out the most ridiculously small issue that will have little or no impact on them.
In these cases, a business will need the external viewpoint of the proof reader to make sure it is clear what it is they are trying to do and how they can do it. This is one reason why Information Architects and Business Analysts are an important tool for any business embarking on something new – in fact I’d even go so far as suggesting you need one every couple of years as a matter of course just to make sure you are operating to maximum potential and efficiency and stay current and ahead of competitors.
And there’s my plug, if you find yourself ‘running through the woods with a blindfold’ on (woo hoo! four clichés in one post!), or you are stuck with the whole story because of a few details, then go forth and seek assistance before it is too late – you will be very thankful for it.