Websites and Supermarkets

I love food. I love preparing it. I love eating it. I love shopping for it. And I love my supermarket. So clean and pretty. So well organized. At my supermarket I could be a stock boy – ask me where anything is and I don’t even have to think. “Aisle three madam, next to the peanut butter.”

But when I’m out of my neighbourhood and head to a foreign supermarket, I’m a mess. My cereal? Okay, three aisles down, take a left, ten meters up on the right. Oh god! No! It’s a box of gluten-free pasta.

It’s the same feeling I get when I visit a badly designed, poorly managed website. One of the main causes of these catastrophes: Big Leaders dictating to the minions about how to communicate – not only about what to say but where to put their big messages.

If you don’t get BL to understand how web-communications is different from sermons and memos, your site will quickly become a warehouse of useless drivel, vacuous self-promotion, and one-handed claps that are there for all to see and ignore. And then BL himself will call you in and ask you how you could have let such a thing happen.

You’ve got to influence. You’ve got to make it real for the BL.

Here’s one way: If your BL is someone who buys the groceries for his house (and not at one of those boutique joints with the valet parking and hidden prices and the personal escorts who push your cart for you), talk to him about supermarket.

Say: Hey Big Leader, how do you like your supermarket? Do you like the aisles broad, so that you can get your big cart past that lady who stares at the shelf of salad dressing from the other side of the aisle like she’s in an art gallery? Do you like those signs hanging down from the ceiling at the ends of each aisle that let you plan your route instead of having to walk laps through the whole place to find that bag of chips and the tin of tuna, which invariably are parked at either ends of the store? Do you like to see that the lettuce and broccoli are in an area called “Vegetables,” not “presinu vegetare”? Or that the milk is near the sour cream in an area called “Dairy” rather than “items derived from animal milk extraction”? Does it make you feel good when the aisle names are in a big font and the specific item names are in a small font – and it’s the same at every aisle? Do you love it when no matter what you buy, it doesn’t expire until long after you’ll ever finish it? And how about those newfangled places that are more like social spaces than food warehouses?

And don’t you love that you can offer feedback on the place and can even request that they start carrying that new brand of cereal you love so much? Or they have an information booth, like you’re in an airport or a mall, and the people there can answer any question you could possibly ask? Or that they’re never out of stuff because they have this inventory system that adjusts automatically with people’s purchase decisions? Or that there are places where you can sit and have a coffee and talk to other people? Or that they’ve got all these other services, like dry-cleaning and travel agents and a bank branch and a liquor store and that even though they’re run separately they’re totally integrated like they’re actually part of the supermarket?

And even though they don’t have it yet, wouldn’t you love it if you could have your own cart, just for yourself, and you could dress it up however you wanted with streamers or bumper stickers and even put your “Big Leader” name on the front and it would always be there waiting for you to use, you and only you?

Now that’s a website.

Please reach out to discuss a challenge, a project, a need. Or if you just want to bounce around an idea. Or to learn more about SAM Communications.