Biting The Hand That Feeds Me

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I really appreciate the free WordPress blog I have. It’s been incredibly reliable, and the user (er, blogger) interface is better than…the other two blogging platforms I’ve used.

So with that opening compliment, I’m going to knock them for something they’ve done three times. If it had happened once, I would have ignored it. Twice, shook my head in disappointment. But three times is a trend — and not a good one. And it deserves a public comment.

The first incident happened a few months ago. I logged on to my blog and noticed that every link I moused over popped up an image of that site. You may think that’s a cool feature, but I found it annoying. And so did a lot of other people. The then-new Snap preview was the default option, and I had to discover that, and turn it off.

The second incident happened a few weeks ago when I went to check the feed stats for my site, but the link was gone. Poof. Feature removed.

The third incident happened a few days ago. All of the recent comments on my site had a silhouette next to them. Which weren’t there the day before. What happened? A new feature displayed a commenter’s avatar on the blog. I didn’t like that feature either, and had to go figure out how to turn it off.

WordPress violated two laws of good user (customer) experience:

  • Law #1: No matter how cool the developer thinks a feature is, give the user the choice to opt in to it.
  • Law #2: If the developer needs to kill a feature, give the user advanced notice.

The lessons apply, of course, well beyond blogs and Web sites. Ever walk into your local supermarket after they’ve rearranged the aisles? They might think they’ve improved things, but it takes me three to four visits to re-figure out where everything is. And I had no problem with the old layout.

So here’s what you do: Take your list of planned Web site enhancements, and publish them on your site. Ask for feedback (it may impact your prioritization), and let your regulars know when to expect the changes. And when a feature goes live, if it’s optional, let site visitors choose to make the change.

Because sometimes — believe it or not — the current customer experience is just fine.

Technorati Tags: Blogging, WordPress, Customer experience

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