I just read through the latest PC Magazine (Vol.18 No.16, 21-Sept-1999). In the issue, there was a "review" of the AMD Athlon versus the Intel Pentium III. The title read:
It caught my eye, so I started reading it. Ill admit, Im always curious about the latest and greatest technologies. The title got me reading the article.
Now let me say first of all that Im not an enemy or fan of either company. I could care less about the manufacturer, or the brand of my processor. Like most people, I care about the quality of the product. In the case of these two processors, I also cared about which was faster since speed is a factor influencing my user experience. And, I generally care about processor issues related to compatibility, installation, and overheating. Ultimately, I care about how well it will make my machine run; I care about how the processor enhances my user experience.
Here's what I wanted to read (note to PC Magazine): Tell me how the processor will make me feel rich and sexy.
The problem is that the PC Magazine article said very little about the processors. I was shocked that it said so little about the actual chips. Instead, the article was a product comparison of out-of-the-box machines (Compaq Presario, Dell Dimension, IBM Aptiva, Quantex SM600).
This was a major bait and switch (i.e., the title lured me into the article, then the content was replaced with something unrelated to it). I expected to read about tests, benchmarks, and compatibility issues related to the processors. Instead, I was slammed with something I could care less about. PC Magazine decided to spend 3 of the 4 pages of the article telling me about pre-built machines Ill never buy.
What gives? Wasnt this article supposed to be about the processors? Interestingly, the AMD processor beat out the Intel processor by 28 percent according to the ZD CPUmark 99 tests (whatever they are). In any event, after barely describing either processor, PC Magazine decided to talk at great length about the great support offered by Dell, the superior sound output of the Compaq, and the aesthetics of the IBM machine.
Blah, blah, blah. Who cares about these pre-built machines? What about the processors? The context provided by the heading led me to believe that Id read about processors. That's not what I read about.
This rant is important for you for several reasons. And, it is related to web usability and online writing.
First, if you try this bait and switch tactic on your web site and you are trying to sell to customers, you will fail. You must provide the right information to people. You have to exceed their expectations. Sales follow the delivery of solid, respected content.
Second, you have to deliver on the promises inherent in your titles. Think about how subject lines, section headers, and titles influence people. This microcontent is crucial to your success. I strongly advise that you spend time making this information excellent. Dont title an article "Athlon vs. PIII at 600 MHz" if you dont plan on talking about Athlon and PIII processors. It is dirty and it wont work.
Aside: People like me will give you a hard time. If you dont listen, it will only get worse. People will complain in newsgroups, discussion lists, and web sites like this one. People are out there watching your usability. As Jakob Nielsen pointed out, every click is a vote. If you dont deliver on promises, you wont get elected. You won't get sales and people will be displeased.
Third, and related to the last point, youll lose sales if you arent trusted. My trust for the information supplied by PC Magazine went down a notch. Dont get me wrong, I greatly enjoy the magazine, but this time around, I didn't enjoy my experience quite as much. Im not as likely to re-subscribe and to recommend the magazine to my friends.
So thats my story. At first I cared about what PC Magazine was talking about. Then, they wasted my time. They didnt exceed my expectations, their article title was deceptive, and I dont trust the magazine as much as I did before. Details matter to me, and to many other folks (like Keith Instone).
p.s. Did you re-read the PC Magazine title? They really do make it sound like they are going to talk about the processors, and also that they are going to look at a single Athlon machine.
p.p.s. After writing this column, I decided to look at the PC Magazine web site, to see how the article was written up there. First of all, the title is different. It reads:
Second, there were many negative reader comments (there usually are though). I scanned several of them and found out that readers were very disappointed. Like me, they expected to read about processors. Also, they were not expecting so much talk about Intel and Dell. By the way, if you haven't ever read these kind of reader comments before, they are very interesting.
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