Do You Know What’s in Your Long Neck?

    August 22, 2006

A website that doesn’t understand what’s in its Long Neck is doomed to underperformance, if not outright failure.

You’re ambitious for your website and that’s a good thing. You want to deliver maximum value for minimum cost. Knowing the tasks that are in your Long Neck is an essential way of achieving your objectives.

It’s fairly obvious that tourists want accommodation and special offers information when they come to a tourist website, isn’t it? Go to Yahoo Travel, Expedia, Travelocity and that’s exactly what you’ll see when you arrive at the homepage.

Well, I once had a group of tourism professionals and told them that their customers wanted two things more than anything else from their websites. I asked them to guess what these things were from the list I gave them. They didn’t do very well at all.

This is far from unusual. I have found a major disconnect between what a typical web team thinks their customers want from the website, and what the customers actually want.

Web teams have a habit of missing the obvious and the ordinary. They suffer from knowing too much about what they themselves want and too little about what their customers want. Often, they are isolated within their own organizations, having limited interaction with other departments, such as support, production, marketing and sales.

Many websites have been for too long under the shadow of IT. For whatever reasons, there is a culture within IT that can be almost the opposite of customer-centric. When I told a programmer recently that the search on his website was awful, he responded. “I can find whatever I want. They’re obviously not doing it properly.”

Customer-centric is not a ‘nice’ idea for your website. It is the foundation upon which you will deliver value. In a highly impatient world, perfecting the Long Neck is what keeps your customers happy.

You can’t solve every problem with your website. You must, however, make sure that the most common tasks can be completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

One of the greatest strengths of the Web is also one of its greatest weaknesses. There is so much scope, there is so much room. It is as cheap to run a 5,000-page website as a 50-page one. It is easier, certainly from a political point of view, to give everyone a place on the homepage.

Do you know what happened to frequently asked questions (FAQs)? One dark, rainy night, they got dragged down an alleyway and were beaten to death by a bunch of infrequently asked questions. An FAQ is part of the Long Neck.

People are hugely impatient on the Web. The Long Neck gets them to stop scanning and start focusing, start reading. It tells them that it knows exactly what they really came for. The Long Neck gets straight to the point.

Amazon may have lots and lots of books but it will always heavily promote JK Rowling and Stephen King on its homepage. That seems obvious. But what customers obviously want can be very different from what many organizations want to give them.

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