User-centered design with room for cream?

I don’t think a week passes that I don’t spend at least one night at my local Barnes and Noble. It’s something about the coffee aromas and mere presence of volumes and volumes of information at my fingertips. It’s the tangible hardcopy of my dear friend and confidant Google (even if it is a meager microcosm). I will always love the smell and feel of books. Always. (sorry, Google, I love you too).

As I sit here, perched once again with my beloved MacBook Pro and café Americano, I am surprised by just how many people frequent Barnes and Noble on a Friday night. It was sheer luck that I snatched the one and only remaining comfy chair in the entire building.

What is going on here? What makes people put on pants and find their cars keys and fight the traffic to sit Indian-style under the fluorescent lights of a mega bookstore? Is it something in the Starbucks? (I realize I just dropped a lot of brand names in succession but I promise I am not getting paid…you would believe me if you could see my car.)

I think the answers to these questions are important to the future of interactivity, marketing, the Internet – all of it.

People are attracted to bookstores like Barnes and Noble because that is where they find control, valuable information, community, and a rich user-centered experience.

No one monitors how long you’ve been reading a book before you pay for it. You can sit there all day long and read three books and leave without paying a dime—and many people do. No one makes you download the trial version of your manual or self-help book before you take if off the shelf. And certainly no one pops out of the bookcase with an annoying flashy advertisement.

This model works because it offers the consumer a user-centered experience, complete with tasty coffee, comfy chairs and most of the conveniences of home (minus the PJ’s). It offers a lot for a little in return. And it works because people really appreciate it.

So here’s my point. If you want to be effective in wooing consumers online, look and see what works in the “real world.” Your first goal should be to find what would satiate your consumer’s intrinsic need for things like control, personalization, convenience and community online. This goal has to trump your personal agenda to sell or market whatever your latest and brightest idea may be.

“If you build it, they will come,” is dead and gone.

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1 Comment

Filed under interactive media

One response to “User-centered design with room for cream?

  1. andersj

    Absolutely fabulous writing in this column. Love it. Live it. Great!

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