The Blog of John Hewitt

Usability: People really don’t like surprises

People don’t like surprises. They especially don’t like to be surprised when they click on a link. A click surprise occurse whenever you click on a link and get something other than what you were expecting. In the e-commerce world this happens far too often.

  • You click on an item you want to buy but instead get routed to a page full of different merchandise.
  • You click on on “more information” and get routed to a sales pitch or a form.
  • You click on on the OK button to complete a transaction, only to be asked to give additional information.
  • You click on on a story title, only to be taken to a huge selection of sponsored stories, of which your original selection is only one choice.
  • You click on a video that claims to answer an interesting question, but soon derails into a sales pitch.

Click surprise isn’t just limited to e-commerce sites. Any time you give a customer, visitor or user something other than what they expected, that’s click surprise. If the user clicks on a headline that promises more information than it delivers, that’s click surprise. If the user clicks on a link (on site or off) and gets an error, that’s click surprise. Each time it happens, you run the risk of alienating the user.

The solution is simple. Deliver what the user expects. Always be honest. If you think you have to fool the user to get a sale, then you are probably selling the wrong thing.