Be Nice

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what makes a great online experience as opposed to one that’s merely OK. And what does it for me is the experience that shows me that someone cares about me. You know – that warm, fuzzy feeling that instead of just slapping this thing together this thing that I’m looking at – that I’m using – someone has gone the extra mile and really put in the extra effort to make my experience genuinely nice. Yep, nice. It’s not an overly strong word, is it? It’s not a lot to ask. And that’s kinda the point.

I don’t need to be smacked in the face with a sledgehammer made of fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark bling that plays techno music and sparkles. I just want to feel like you’ve thought about me a little before you went and bought a convertible-BMW-with-matching-Bluetooth-headset with your venture capital funding.

Case in point: If you’re reading an article on the New York Times website and you drag your cursor over a word to select it a small, discreet question mark appears in a bubble. You click on the question mark and up pops a dictionary definition of the word you’ve selected. It’s quick, unobtrusive, and really helpful. That’s nice, right? It’s not a feature that has an animated banner with a spinning starburst promoting its features and benefits. It’s not even evident on the page – if you didn’t drag your cursor over a word you’d never even know that it’s there. This is precisely why it makes me feel like someone at the New York Times really gives a damn about me.

Of course, doing stuff that’s nice isn’t limited to obscured features. It’s even more powerful when ‘nice’ is the undercurrent to how users do things. Like letting them achieve the same outcome in two steps instead of three, or not forcing them to log in to your site to put something in a shopping cart.

It’s little things like these that create so many passionate advocates for Apple products. They’re not fanatical because their Mac has a keyboard and a screen or even because of its aesthetic qualities. They’re fanatical because they get a sense of delight when they trip over their laptop’s power cord and the thing doesn’t tumble onto the floor and break. Someone at Apple has thought about how people use their products and considered the benefits of using a magnetic power connector. No one at Dell would be that nice.

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