One of the most famous marketing blunders of all time happened in the 80’s when Coke rejigged the secret formula that had stood them so well for 100 years and packaged it as ‘New Coke’.
The result: worldwide comdemnation and almost unanimous customer revolt.
The apparent lesson: company focused design should NOT leapfrog user-centred design.
This mistake has been repeated time and time again, from product design to food to advertising jingles.
The problem is, people in the firing line will tell you, is that they tried the user centred design. Coke, for example, trialed thousands of customers with their new cola recipe twenty-odd years ago. The feedback pointed overwhelmingly in favour of the new recipe, but to their surprise, their audience contradicted their earlier answers and went back to saying that the new Coke sucked.
Recently, a successful 9 year old website in the US called UrbanBaby.com went through a design overhaul and their audience fled to a new site called YouBeMom.com.
So what happened? Why did all these people suddenly leave after almost a decade of faithful support, dragging the site owners over a bed of hot coals for changing its look n’ feel.
Did their research lie?
Well, in a word yes. I believe Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal book ‘Blink‘ holds some of the answers. Gladwell reminds us that people behave differently under controlled circumstances.
Online marketers will do well to take heed of this when conducting user-centred-design research.
This is why as a company or an online agency, if you’re looking to truly connect with the personas visiting your website, you cannot only rely on stats. You need to go out and get personal. Get in touch with your audience. Have a drink with them and understand the emotions behind why they’re interacting with your brand.
This underlying understanding can then be taken into account when making decisions on your website strategy.