Website success has as much to do with figuring out who is NOT
your customer, and the information you will NOT provide, as
anything else.

Some customers are not worth the effort. They say that the
customer is king, but on the Web the customer is dictator. The
customer is impatient and demanding, with their finger always on
the Back button.

If there is one central flaw in web teams it is their lack of
ability (or willingness) to make difficult decisions. Deciding
to put more content on a website is an easy decision. Adding
more links, expanding classifications and adding more features
are easy decisions.

Easy decisions involve deciding that there’s an incredibly wide
range of customers. That’s easy. And it’s a cop out. Why?

Because when everybody is the customer, then nobody is. And when
every piece of content is useful then nothing is. And when
everything is put up on a website, the website is out of
control, unmanaged, and sliding down the slippery slope of

Who are you not going to serve? For those customers that you do
want to serve, what are the things you’re not going to give
them? In what areas are you going to make things difficult for
them? You can’t make everything easy. Making one thing easier
invariably makes another thing more complicated. What are you
going to leave complicated?

Web teams often become obsessed by the trivial and exceptional.
There are really crucial (and boring) things the website should
do but these get ignored. And the focus is put on the esoteric;
the minor task.

The world of the Web is a small screen and an impatient eye.
Nobody has time.

In the last issue, I wrote about how Ryanair went from a tiny
regional airline to one of the largest low cost airlines in the
world. It did this by relentlessly focusing on price. And it

Ryanair shows you no mercy if you’re late. That’s terrible for
you. But is it so terrible for the 200 people on the plane who
were on time? If Ryanair waited for you, they’d make you very
happy. But there’d be 200 people who’d be somewhat unhappy.

Everything we do or don’t do on our websites has a price. If we
try to solve one issue then in all sorts of (often subtle) ways
we will negatively impact other problems. If we try to serve one
type of customer, then we affect the speed and simplicity with
which another type of customer can serve themselves.

Some customers are simply not worth the effort. Other customers
only become worth the effort when we serve a narrow range of
their needs. The Web is not a nirvana.

Practically every response I received about the Ryanair piece I
did last issue was negative. Yet Ryanair flew 12.5 million
passengers in the last quarter, and has $3 billion in cash

The Web is an endless space accessed through a small window.
Success is down to focus. Who really is your customer? And what
do they really need to do? Everything else just gets in the

Gerry McGovern