“Mrs Jane Snowball was a grandmother, 72 years old and she had broken her hip. So they decided, ‘Let’s give Mrs Snowball a television (connected to a phone line) and let’s rope in some retailers (a supermarket, a pharmacy and a bakers) to provide the service.’

Her connection to the TV was a standard 1970s remote with an additional button which said ‘Phone’. She could sit in her armchair and order her groceries… it was dead easy.
— Michael Aldrich on the first B2C, online shopping transaction in 1984
 

 

“How easy is figuring out how to use your website, at a glance?”

 

 

When Aldrich invented online selling, he used a very simple interface. He took something familiar to Mrs Snowball (a TV remote) and augmented it using an icon for another object she was familiar with (a “Phone” button).

He expected a geriatric grandmother who’d never seen his invention to have no problems using it.

These days, we manage incredibly complex websites that are full of content and technical features – there are countless more opportunities for confusion

We copy competitors. We copy expert guides. But we rarely ask our users what they think – which is odd, because they’re the ones we’re trying to convince to buy from us.

If your website tangles users’ brains, they’ll slide over to a competitor and bury the memory of yours deep with other unpleasant memories – e.g. explosive episodes of food poisoning.