Friday, November 21, 2008

User is king

I have an account with a public-sector bank. It's a bank that opened a branch right next to our new office (of one of my previous employer-companies), and it's where my salary was credited. I still have that account, but since it's about 7 kms from my residence, I was thinking in terms of internet banking...

"Not a chance", scoffed the brother. "It's a public sector bank; they're dinosaurs."

I didn't agree with that line of reasoning, so I went and checked their website. Sure enough, they had internet banking facility. They even had an FAQ for users of their internet-banking facility. I saw the FAQ page and saw red. The following image is a composite screenshot of their FAQ page peppered with my red-ink comments (to magnify the picture, click on the picture).

And then it struck me. I was looking at the Web page as a techwriter, not as a user.

An average internet-banking user of this bank would be an Indian whose primary language, either at school or at home, was not and is not English. Such a person would not even notice the errors I’ve marked. Such a person would find the text totally comprehensible, unambiguous, and useful - though a tad incomplete because it answers only about four questions and doesn’t even address the how-to of the options provided by the internet-banking facility.

Such a person is the average user of the webpage. Which means, almost none of my edits are required.

Does it matter at all that a minuscule percentage of users, like me, are put off by badly-written help? And no, it’s not because I am a tech-writer that I am put off. Ever since I can remember, I’ve hated badly-written text (even before I knew - courtesy technical writing - why I hated them). It somehow smacks of a cavalier attitude.

Coming back to the example in question - I, as that minuscule user percentage, am put off by the bank’s FAQ page and will never read it. How does that effect me, the user, and other users like me? I, for one, will never use their internet services, preferring to physically visit the bank for my transactions - if they can’t get their webpage right, they won’t get my online transactions right as well. Presumptuous and unfair of me, but still… Does it effect the bank? Nope. They’ve still got my account with them. But in the longer run, I may be leaning more towards banks that care…

So, where does audience analysis begin? And stop?


Nithya Rachel said...

Hi Anindita,

Your post "User is King" was brilliant. I am a fresher and I have learned a lot from your TW blog. Keep up the good work :). However with regard to the "User is King" post, I would like to point out that you seemed to have used the bank's name while saving and uploading the image file. Please rename the file as it is revealed (in the URL) when we click on the image.Feel free to delete this comment after renaming the image.

Best Regards,
Nithya Rachel

Anindita said...

Good catch, Nithya! Thank you for pointing out the error. I've changed the file name now :-)