Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What I Learned About User Experience Over Winter Break

I know I've been bad. The holidays, projects I shouldn't be blogging about, and my shiny new Xbox 360 have been the major contributors to falling off my "one post a week" horse. Either way, I should be back on said horse, and riding back into the Wild Blogtier. Let's start rustling.

Since I'm still (technically) a student, many of my fond memories are from my younger years, where homework that took 1/2 an hour was epicly long, girls were icky, and corn dog night was just about equivalent with Christmas or losing a tooth. One of the other things I recalled was the ever-popular "What I Did On My ___ Vacation" essays. In my quest to find shiny things for my girlfriend's Christmas present, I learned a valuable lesson...about user experience.

I live in Philadelphia, and there's a section of Eighth Street called "Jeweler's Row." That section (if you haven't guessed already) has lots and lots of  jewelers on it. It's the logical destination for any hapless (see: male) potential jewelry buyer, since you can find pretty much anything you want there.

I looked into a couple of the smaller ones, since I try to support local businesses over large chains, but they all looked pretty shady. If I'm spending a significant amount of my cash on something that does nothing but look pretty, I tend to want to know I'm not being taken for a ride. So I went to a large chain store.

The salesman was attentive and friendly, and even offered me a cup of coffee when I came in. I told him what I wanted, and what my budget was, and he told me that what I wanted (garnets) were not in high supply (which was odd, considering that they're January's birthstone) so he could get some for me, and set them himself. That seemed fine to me, so I agreed to call a few days later to check on the progess.

I call, he's sick, call back on Monday.

I call again, still sick call on Tuesday.

I call again, he's still sick, call on Wednesday. It's the 18th, and I'm leaving on Friday to visit family. I ask if I can get anyone to help me. They say no, because it was his sale. I tell them to tell him not to bother, because I'm going somewhere else.

I try another large chain, but apparently they only had diamonds. So much for that.

Finally, at my wits' end, I try one of the hole-in-the-walls that was suggested to me by the salesperson ad the diamonds-only place. Lo and behold, I walk in there, tell them what I want, what I want to pay, and they say "okay, we'll have it for you on Thursday."

The lessons that I learned here go something like this:

1) Jerk the consumer around (even non-purposefully,) and they'll leave you.
2) If a customer's only contact is unavailable, and you won't provide another, you'll lose them.
3) If you can't provide what your customer wants, point them in a direction they can use. Then, they might come back to you when they need what you do provide.
4) Appearances are nice and all, but in the end, what matters is if you can deliver the goods or not.

And that is why I think the T-Rex was the coolest dinosaur ever.

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