One of my favourite usability horror stories (from 2002) was how Tesco, having created an easy-to-use, accessible, light-weight version of their shopping site called “Access”. Unfortunately Tesco’s big wigs were disappointed to discover that everyone was using it.
Everyone was using it because it was quick to load, was ad-free, simple to use unlike their real online shop. Building your shopping list was such an arse-ache of a task, that doing it quickly and simply in the accessible version was a breath of fresh air, you’d have been daft not to use the accessible version.
So what did Tesco do? They deliberately hid the accessible version, making it difficult to find. They actually stopped people buying stuff they wanted so they could market stuff that customers probably didn’t want. Genius.
In a similar vein, I noticed that the TVGuide site now has an iPhone version, that doesn’t have horrible ads, is clearer to use and quicker. I wonder how long it is before the marketing dept. shuts it down?
Closing down sites because customers like it and because they work is one well-worn strategy for doing great business online but there are others. My bank recently decided that repeatedly cocking up the login/password on their bank accounts was one sure-fire way of making sure people didn’t actually take any money out. This credit-crunch beating genius is what I’ve come to expect from UK corporates . What will they think of next? I can’t wait.
p.s That’s a handy tip at the bottom isn’t it? Just knowing that little gem made my futile efforts to log in to my account so much more enjoyable…