Many website managers fail to recognize that any addition to the website adds complexity, which may result in confused and lost customers.
The man stood looking at the woman who sat looking back at him through the glass.
"Press the # key," she said, the slightest air of impatience in her voice. The man looked at her quizzically, as if she had uttered some strange, fantastic word.
"The # key?" and his eyes narrowed slightly as he gazed down at the keypad.
"Yes, the # key," she repeated, this time with unmistakeable impatience.
It was 9.58 pm, Copenhagen airport. I was standing behind a man who was trying to buy a train ticket. My train left at 10.06 pm and I was getting impatient.
"Can you please press the # key," the lady attendant said to the nervous man. "You have to choose your currency."
"I don't want to choose my currency," the man said timidly. "I just want to buy a ticket."
"You have to select if you want to be charged in Danish kroner or euro," she replied firmly. "Just press the # key to choose euro."
"Where is the # key?" the man pleaded, his hand hovering above the keypad like a nervous child.
"Move your hand down," she said, her face beginning to flush red. "Move your hand down!"
The hand did not move down but instead continued to hover in a nervous way. Can't he just bloody press the # key, I thought. What sort of an idiot is he? And then I realized that the previous month, at this very desk, I was this idiot as I tried to find the # key when an agitated attendant instructed me.
The attendant reached for an A-4 page. On this page was a gigantic # symbol. She began waving it, as if she were a street protestor waving a placard.
"Press the # key," she said. "Press the # key! Move your hand down! Move your hand down!"
Finally, the man saw the # key on the tiny keypad. (Imagine what it's like on a cluttered webpage.)
"It shouldn't be this difficult," he grumbled. "All I wanted to do was buy a ticket."
When you pay for something by credit card, most of the time you're just asked to put in your PIN number. But in Copenhagen airport they gave you an extra choice, and we all know, of course, that everyone loves choices. We have given you another choice. Doesn't that make you so happy?
To add can be generous, can most definitely be a good thing. However, I find that people rarely think of the implications of what they add. They only see the immediate benefit.
Wouldn't it be great to allow people to know exactly what they will pay in their own currency at the moment they make the purchase, the manager thinks. Absolutely. Sounds great. But will it complicate things? Will it take longer to complete the purchase? Will it create confusion? Will it create extra steps? What are the costs of all these things?
On my next trip to Copenhagen, they didn't ask me to press the # key. They had gotten rid of that option.