Links are New Yorkers (Writing great web links)

3 minute read
Gerry McGovern avatar

A good link has no time for small talk or niceties. It acts like a signpost, like a promise. With a good link, what you see is what you get.

If most of today's web links were married they'd be heading for divorce. Because they never keep their promises. "Darling, I'll be home at 10." But the cad of a link doesn't come home until 4 in the morning.

The link says, "Launch online application form." What's a reasonable expectation? That if you click on the link, an online application form will be launched. So I click. Nothing launches. I just get a page of useless text telling me stuff like: "This is a secure site designed to help customers correctly complete a passport application online." Well, fancy that.

So I scan the page for a link and I find: "Start application process." From launch to start, am I moving forward at all? I click on that and arrive at a page whose heading is: "Before you start." Hello? I already launched, then I started, now this page is telling me that I haven't even started yet. What's up?

On another website the link says "Become a member." I click on it. The next link says, "Join." I click on it. The next link on the next page again says, "Join". I click on it. Another page of useless text. But I'm making progress because the current link says: "Join Now!"

This sort of thing happens all the time. Why? Because web teams manage graphics, pages, applications, text, video, animations, portals, personalization, social media, vanity, and internal politics. Most web teams think about tools and things and units of stuff and what they like and their bosses like. They don't think about the task of the customer. They don't feel responsible for helping the customer to easily complete a task.

I talked to a web consultant recently who had found that on one website, 50 percent of the contact requests went unanswered. "That's not my problem," was the web manager's reply. "That's the responsibility of the Help Desk." Ah, but it is your problem, Mr Website Manager. You put up the link: "Contact Us." You created the form to allow contact.

Learning Opportunities

If your organization is unwilling to get back to people who contact you, here are some alternative ways you could name your link:

  • Contact Us (only joking)
  • Contact us if you can
  • Just try and contact us
  • Don't contact us; we'll contact you

It's time to end this Pontius Pilate 'wash my hands of responsibility' kind of website non-management. If the website doesn't help customers to complete tasks, it hurts the reputation of the web team and it hurts the reputation of the organization.

We click on a link because we want to complete a task. Thinking linking is thinking doing. It is thinking about the customers' journey as they seek to complete a task. It is about making that journey as simple and fast as possible.

Stop thinking in web pages and what the organization has to do. Start thinking in tasks and what the customer has to do. Links are New Yorkers. Straight to the point. No messing around.

About the author

Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.