SpoolCast: Managing Sites for Top Tasks

Jared Spool

September 4th, 2009

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Guest Gerry McGovern speaks about finding out what tasks your customers want to complete on your site, and how to help them.
Duration: 36m | 19MB
Recorded: August, 2009
Brian Christiansen, UIE Podcast Producer
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One of the most popular speakers in the history of our User Interface Conference is Gerry McGovern. Certainly most of that popularity is thanks to Gerry’s no-nonsense, customer-centric approach to content management strategy. Perhaps a small portion is due to his dulcet Irish brogue. Gerry coined the term “customer care words”, which are distinct words and phrases that visitors are looking for that lead them to success and satisfaction. This is complimentary to a concept we at UIE call “trigger words”, but not quite the same. Trigger words are content-related and navigational–words that help lead you along the path to what you seek. Care words are task-related not content-related; they are the words that visitors need to see to complete the task they are on your site for. These words are not always found in your search logs or in keywords that have led people from Google to your site. But, through polling, testing and observation, care words can be discovered.

Customer care words are both a concept and a eponymous technique that Gerry uses with his clients. When enough participants take part in his processes, his technique both shows top words people are attracted to and, perhaps more importantly, reveals the top tasks the customers are visiting the site to accomplish.

Top task management, quite simply, is what Gerry thinks your site’s whole design should revolve around. Most site owners view their sites as places that house information, but your visitors are on your site to accomplish a task. You should optimize your site, mostly through language, so that it excels in helping visitors accomplish their most common tasks. Traditional site management concentrates on technology, like search engines, and content. But all site projects should ultimately be judged by the satisfaction and success of the users… not by whether your new CMS transition went technically well.

Once the content management system is in place, many organizations write and publish copy without knowing how it will be used. Optimizing your content for top tasks can produce increases in customer satisfaction and task completion. Gerry has seen this with many of his own clients, some of whom were skeptical at first. The biggest objection to optimizing for top tasks is the fear that your customers look to do many things on your site, not just these top tasks. However, if customers have trouble with their common tasks, why would they trust your site to dive into the other ones? In some cases, the top tasks weren’t the most obvious ones to site owners, underlining the importance of both talking to your customers and observing users on your site regularly.

Measuring your customers’ success rate, time-to-completion and their disaster rate–when they think they’ve successfully completed their task, but actually have not–will show you whether or not your changes are beneficial. What’s key is to measure and to revisit these areas until we have them right. Too often, Gerry says, there’s a culture of “launch and leave” with sites: build it and then never revise. Constant, incremental improvement is a better culture to work towards. Gerry has seen seen customer satisfaction rates “sky-rocket” after such changes.

There’s so much more Gerry and I discussed. Please listen to him in his own words on the podcast; your customers will thank you.

How are you ensuring your customers are completing their top tasks successfully on your site? Discuss your methods in the comments below.

7 Responses to “SpoolCast: Managing Sites for Top Tasks”

  1. Cade Whitbourn Says:

    MP3 file not working direct or via iTunes :(

  2. Brian Christiansen Says:

    Cade, you’re right. We’re in the process of some behind-the-scenes repairs, and about half our podcasts are broken at the moment. We hope to have them up again shortly. In the mean time, the “Direct Link to MP3″ link at the top of the post is working properly. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  3. links for 2009-09-21 « innovations in higher education Says:

    [...] SpoolCast: Managing Sites for Top Tasks " UIE Brain Sparks (tags: content design strategy ux ui organization iteration iterativedesign) [...]

  4. Bookmarks 11/9/2009 « Susan’s Normal Form (SNF) Says:

    [...] Quote for today: “Trigger words are content-related and navigational–words that help lead you along the path to what you seek. Care words are task-related not content-related; they are the words that visitors need to see to complete the task they are on your site for. These words are not always found in your search logs or in keywords that have led people from Google to your site. But, through polling, testing and observation, care words can be discovered.” Jarod Spool summarizing Gerry McGovern’s talk on Managing Sites for Top Tasks. [...]

  5. Trigger UX: Questions for designing an interface « Arron Cupid – Blog Says:

    [...] What are the ‘care’ words and ‘trigger’ words – http://www.uie.com/brainsparks/2009/09/04/spoolcast-managing-sites-for-top-tasks/ [...]

  6. ContentGrid – scoren met taakgericht schrijven « ContentKings weblog Says:

    [...] website XYZ gaan om te kijken of er misschien wat te zien is’. Voor wie het nodig heeft: laat good old Gerry je even wakker [...]

  7. ContentGrid - scoren met taakgericht schrijven Says:

    [...] website XYZ gaan om te kijken of er misschien wat te zien is’. Voor wie het nodig heeft: laat good old Gerry je even wakker [...]

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