What ever happened to reading comprehension?

I think that our society has given up on reading anything that we see on the internet (and yes, I’m aware of the irony here).

As a case in point, a customer of ours just received an enquiry on one of their products. To put this into perspective, each product has it’s own ‘Add to enquiry’ area that asks for quantity, colour and has a space for notes for that item. Apparently, that’s all to hard, because two weeks after launching, we had to modify that form so that it had defaults set for every field, because people couldn’t work out that if they wanted to enquire about a particular item, they’d actually have to say what they wanted.

This latest enquiry came in asking:

I need 60 of these blue widgets, so let me know price and availability.

By itself, that’s no problem. When you think about what was submitted, there is.

The fields for that product indicated that the customer wanted a price on one widget in red. That’s right. The user completely bypassed the quantity field, and the colour field and typed in the notes that they wanted something completely different.

There’s two lessons in here, one for consumers and one for suppliers.

First, for users: Please look at what you’re filling out as there’s normally somewhere for you to choose what you want, and if there is a field, use it! That saves a lot of confusion and possible issues for the company that you’re trying to contact.

Secondly, for suppliers: When you’re setting up your site, think about how stupid that average person is, and then remember that half the people in the world are more stupid. If there’s any way for someone to get something wrong, they will. There is a fine line between too many options and not enough options, but there definitively needs to be a balance in there somewhere.

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