There’s a scene in the movie version of “Oliver” where merchants walk along the street outside his bedroom window peddling their wares. They sing out “Who will buy?” this or that, holding up samples for passersby to see. Oliver has never witnessed such a thing before.

He sings,

Who will buy this wonderful morning?
Such a sky you never did see!
Who will tie it up with a ribbon,
And put it in a box for me?

I visited a web site today that sells dessert products. Its homepage had no content, so there was no one to “sing” to me about the products.

In the movie, the rose seller stresses her “sweet red roses”. Anyone walking by her on the street would be able to hold a rose up close to press a satiny red petal to their cheek. On the web, we have no such luxury.

We depend on page content to paint a picture of what a product looks and feels like. If a web site offers images that express feelings of joy, satisfaction, thrill, fun or hope, we’re given something to emotionally connect with. We can hope our experience will be the same as the people in the pictures.

The site I visited today had no pictures of people. Its products were beautifully gift wrapped so that I couldn’t see closeups. Other pictures showed food items that were lacking in detail. When the product description says 1 dozen cookies, are they big or little cookies? Are the raisins plump? How thick is the shortbread? Are we talking one cookie per person or does it take 3 cookies to equal one serving?

Oliver sings,

They’ll never be a day so sunny,
It could not happen twice.
Where is the man with all the money?
It’s cheap at half the price!

For this site, sale items were a click away from the homepage. To get to that page meant first finding it. The link label simply read “Sale”. Wow. That will drive in the hordes of budget crazed thrill seeking bargain hunters!

What do we get for our time on this site? What if we click, there’s only 3 choices and none of them are interesting? Does the page lead us anywhere else or just leave us dangling from the swinging chandelier?

Oliver has no money. He’s an orphan. He’s had a rough life. For him, anyone with something to sell him is incredible. The point is, someone WANTS him to buy something. If he can hear them hawking ripe strawberries, they must know he’s there somewhere inside a building, wanting to buy them.

Someone wants him to buy. He is special to the seller. They helped him feel that way. He sings,

Who will buy this wonderful feeling?
I’m so high I swear I could fly.
Me, oh my! I don’t want to lose it
So what am I to do
To keep a sky so blue?
There must be someone who will buy…

When was the last time you got this excited about buying online? When did you last feel madly driven to toss items into an online shopping cart? Which site makes you feel special when you’re there? How many web sites acknowledge your presence at all? Do online shops know you want to feel special?

Try adding little details to your online store. Help your customers feel wonderful, wanted and welcome.

There will be someone who will buy.

In the news:

Omaha based Netshops has hired an ex-Googler, Ash ElDifrawi, as the company’s first Chief Marketing Officer. He’ll be responsible for managing the company’s overall marketing strategy, including online marketing, brand marketing, SEO and strategic planning and corporate communications. At Google, ElDifrawi lead Brand Advertising for Google and YouTube, and was also the architect of the Google Brand Accelerator.

Look at Netshops. You’ll understand what Oliver was singing about.

That's a Nice Form You're Wearing


Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)