Shoulder Surfing (Your Web Site)

August 18, 2009

Shoulder surfing is not a good thing when you are typing in passwords, or keying your PIN number into an automatic teller.

But here is a time when you should shoulder surf!

Your Web Site!

Maybe your Web Site has been around for a while, or perhaps you have just been working at rebuilding it, either way you are much too far on the inside. You know what to expect, and where to expect it.

So Enter In Ignorance

Have a spouse, a friend, or an acquaintance go through your site looking for particular information. Just watch how they navigate. (no prompting!)

Are they finding it easy to obtain that information?

Are they getting lost?

Maybe they are trying a search that is either not there, or not pulling up the expected information?

You are not alone!

Even large organizations have trouble with this. In spite of the amount of money they may spend on optimization and Web Site analytic software.

A Case In Point

This is  a large business, but the concept holds for business of all sizes.

My son bought a new iPod Touch, and while I also have an old  iPod, I just copy my own CD’s onto it, my car has an iPod interface, so I get hours of music and podcasts from the like of Michael Krigsman so I have never used the iTunes store.

My son wanted to purchase some music from the iStore (I guess the no random downloading lessons worked, the RIAA should be pleased!)

So I hit the iTunes Web Site looking for a method that I can either pre-pay, or use a payment service (ie PayPal) to set him up. I really was not keen on inputting my credit card into his account. (too easy for a kid to ‘forget’ that as easy as the download is, someone has to pay for it!)

Needless to say quite a bit of time and frustration later – I could not find that information one way or the other.

The SMB Takeaway

Too often our Web Site becomes as familiar and as invisible as our business cards. A fresh set of eyes that don’t have preconceived notions or expectations can reopen our own eyes.

So in the case of your Web Site, that is one time when you should be shoulder surfing. Looking at how others see your site.

Enter In Ignorance! Shoulder Surfing

Enter In Ignorance! Shoulder Surfing

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Photo Credit eskimo_jo via flickr


2 Responses to “Shoulder Surfing (Your Web Site)”

  1. elliotross Says:

    Hi John!

    Sorry for the delay, A hacked server at work (you can guess that post will be coming) and a promise to my wife of being analogue only after work for a few days has left me in arrears!

    That is a good way to summarize it – getting different people / perspectives. Having just one individual review your site could be bias one way or the other.

    The Apple card not available in Canada – probably some legal restriction that they don’t want to bother with!

    Best Regards

  2. John B Says:

    2 things.
    We used to refer to “intelligent naivety” or “the power of inexperience” as “The Cleaning Lady” test.
    We’d put a communication (chart/newsletter/whatever) on the wall outside the office and ask uninvolved coworkers to summarise what they learned from the document. As in “If they didn’t hear it, you didn’t say it”
    I’d frequently get my wife to do the same thing, because wives tend not to shy away from saying “Look, this is just so dumb..”
    Have to leap to defense of Apple on this. How about a gift card? He pays you, you buy the card, you both have control over the media budget.
    Right there under the “Account” access.

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