Three ways balance can improve the User Experience...

Wax On, Wax Off… Why It’s Important to User Experience

If you’ve read up on user experience (UX), you’ve no doubt heard the story about Amazon’s $300 million button.

Customers new to Amazon were bailing out of the checkout process when presented with a “Register” button.

They didn’t have to register an account with Amazon to complete their purchase, but it looked like they did. That scared off a lot of buyers.

Changing the text in that same button from “Register” to “Continue” added $300 million in sales to Amazon’s bottom line during the first year alone.

Here’s the thing. The person who came up with that idea could have stumbled on it in so many different ways. Someone from Amazon’s web design team could have stood in line at a local store for a small purchase. Maybe they saw a sign about registering for a giveaway at the checkout counter. And maybe they misunderstood the sign, thought they were in the wrong line, and walked away.

Realizing what they did, they applied the lesson to the button.

Now, that’s not how it happened. The point I want to make is that those kinds of transferrable ideas happen to all of us… often. We find ideas in our everyday life we can adapt to improve our business.

Take a movie I just watched again: The Karate Kid… the 1984 original.

It tells the story of a wise old Japanese gentleman, Mr. Miyagi, who mentors a young American teen, Daniel, who just moved from New Jersey to California.

Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel the art of earning respect among peers and gaining life balance through martial arts.

During the movie, I saw several applicable principles for strengthening the online user experience.

Like this…

Close the open loop in your buttons and links.

“Wax on, wax off” is an iconic phrase from The Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi uses the phrase while showing Daniel how waxing a car uses a motion similar to the one for blocking punches in karate.

Notice, Mr. Miyagi doesn’t say “wax on, wipe clean”… “wax on, clean up”… or “wax on, polish off.”

He says, “wax on, wax off.”

The consistency and balance of that phrase helps make it memorable.

Our brains are hard-wired for closure. We turn lights on, we turn lights off. We breathe in, we breathe out. We log on, we log off.

Our subconscious expects similar closure while interacting on the web. Closing loops improves the user experience.

For example, one membership website for songwriters lets members log on, but doesn’t close the loop with a “log off” option. Instead, it has a “sign out” link.

Now, it may sound like I’m being picky … “log off” vs. “sign out.” What’s the difference? Everyone knows what they both mean, right?

Not always.

On this music site, after a member logs on, there are different areas they can access within their account. So, when a member clicks the “sign out” link, it can leave them wondering…. will they log off their entire account, or just the one section of the website? It’s not clear.

Having unbalanced links and buttons, like a “log on” link paired with a “sign out” button, leaves an open loop in our mind, brings doubt about what action to take, and reduces the UX on that website.

According to the 2020 Census Disability Community Toolkit, 26% of the United States population is challenged with a disability. Closing loops on the web is even more important for people living with cognitive disabilities. Using two different words for related actions can create unnecessary confusion, even anxiety.

People living with a visual disability, using screen-reading technology, often perform keyword searches to find specific words on a web page. If they log on to an account, they expect to find a similar word to log off. They aren’t searching for a “sign” out button.

These folks also use a feature which generates a scrollable list of active links on a site. The list is key sensitive. Pressing the letter “L” will navigate to links beginning with the letter “L,” like “log off” or “log out.” If there’s a “sign out” link instead, it creates an open loop and makes life more difficult for all your users, but especially for those who are dealing with extra challenges.

When we keep the “wax on, wax off” model in mind, open loops get closed, and user experience is improved.

Here’s another gem from The Karate Kid

Bring balance to your sign-up forms.

In the movie, Daniel stands on the bow of a small fishing boat out in the middle of a lake, practicing moves to block punches. He nags his mentor about when he’ll learn how to throw a punch ,not just block them.

Mr. Miyagi rocks the boat and laughs, saying, “Learn how to punch, when learn how to keep dry.” Daniel loses his balance and falls into the lake.

If your forms are out of balance, they, too, can fall down on the job.

Forms serve two purposes. They serve a purpose for the website owner, who wants to increase subscriptions and sell products. And, they serve a purpose for the website visitor, who wants to gain a benefit.

For example, on a popular membership website that offers courses for entrepreneurs, there is a sign-up form for their newsletter. But, the form doesn’t offer visitors a reason to sign up.

The form only contains a field to enter an email address and a <Go> button.

That puts it out of balance, weighted toward the membership site’s purposes, and not addressing the visitor’s motives.

Content further up the page makes mention of downloading a free report, but there’s no specific detail on the sign-up form about that report.

Speaking to the incentive within the form itself, near the call-to-action, helps ensure a balance between your client’s needs and their visitors’ needs.

Forms need balance in another area, too:  between the form offer and the type of call-to-action.

If you offer a free report like, “7 Medical Signs Your Pet Is Eating Too Fast,” it’s natural for your user to expect to see a matching button to close the loop.

A simple button like <Send Me My Pet’s Eating Habits Report> should work well. And, it’s so easy to do.

A default <Submit> or <Go> button is not inviting or descriptive enough. It doesn’t create balance with the offer.

Here’s something else to consider…

According to Business Insider, online shoppers 65 and older are now the fastest-growing group of online buyers. We now have more elderly visitors surfing and making purchases on the web than ever before in history.

The buttons, graphical links, image carousels, pop-up messages, slide-in forms, banner ads, and other visual ways to interact with a website can become overwhelming.

Make it easy. When you open an offer, close it with a balanced button or link.

We’ll finish up with this one…

Bring balance to your visitor’s welcome messages.

In our movie, The Karate Kid, when Daniel sees Mr. Miyagi for the first time, the old man is sitting, carefully trimming Bonsai trees. Minutes later, Daniel and his mom are on their way back to their apartment with their own Bonsai trees, gifts from Mr. Miyagi.

A very welcoming experience.

You can give your email list the Miyagi welcome, too. But, don’t make them wait for that to happen in the official welcome email.

Get right to it in the confirmation email.

People sign up to email lists based on the copy they read on a website. But, they may not get to their inbox to confirm joining the list until later in the day or even the next day.

By then, they may have forgotten why they signed up. You can remind them and revive their feelings of excitement and anticipation by welcoming them to your list from within the confirmation email.

Welcome them with personalization, inviting content, helpful information, and links to their free downloads. Packing your confirmation message with personality and value means they’ll be more likely to click the confirmation link, because you’re already making such a good impression. And, you can continue to welcome them even more, when they get the official welcome message from you.

At its core, having a positive user experience builds user confidence and trust. Before a web user gives you information or their hard-earned money, you need to give them a user experience they can count on and enjoy.

The Karate Kid ends with Daniel using the Crane Technique to win a karate tournament. When Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi if the Crane Technique works, Mr. Miyagi’s response is, “If do right, no can defense.”

Even if the relationship with your web visitor is positive, you must constantly defend against poor UX to keep it positive.

Using UX tips like these in your projects helps execute an undefeatable user experience on the web.



Brad Dunse

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