Making Promises — Porches, Shaving, and Visual Problem Solving

Cars, Castles, and Spas

Rob Maigret’s talk from Adaptive Path’s UX Week 2012 was mainly about experiences that match promises.

It is very easy for companies to make grand promises in their advertising, but translating those promises to a website can be exceedingly difficult.

Clearly Porche can’t provide the same level of excitement on its website as it can from letting you race down the Autobahn at 200mph, but

Maigret’s methodology in juxtaposing the Porche website and the ture Porche experience is valuable.

Maigret made a list of all the terms that came to mind when considering Porche, and then compared that list to the website.

This problem-solving technique is not new, but perhaps it should be applied more often.

Consider Baxter of California:

Baxter is a company that sells men’s shaving and grooming products.  They are well-known, highly-respected, and at the top end in their industry.  Here is a commercial that shows their products being used at one of their barber shops:

What is promised in this video?

Here is the list of 5 items I made:

1– Precision

2– Cleanliness

3– Friendly

4– Strong

5– Traditional

Now take a look at two websites:

The first website is the site for the actual barber shop featured in the video:

This site absolutely delivers on its five promises to me.

The font choice has precision and the black-and-white all-caps design has cleanliness.  A haircut is exactly 40 dollars, not 39.99.  The gallery of pictures shows traditional barber chairs, and the feel of the site is both strong and inviting.  Friendliness here might be a bit lacking since the chairs are empty in the pictures, but it felt inviting.

My list is high on emotion, and experiences are built on emotions.

Now look at Baxter of California, the makers of the products used in the video and co-owners of the barber shop:

Does the website exude the same personality or illicit the same emotions?

Here it is much more ambiguous.  Certainly the site is clean, but the illustrations are far from precise.  The precision is present again in the flat-prices, and certainly the wireframing is precise but does the site make you feel like it is precise?  How about friendly?  The only human face is illustrated, and there are no soft-lit open chairs for you to imagine sitting on.  Baxter is selling traditional straight-razors and shaving balms.  They are selling you your grandfather’s trip to the barber, but the website is far from strong, manly or traditional.

I am led to believe that Baxter Finley Barber Shop will keep its promise to its users, but I’m unsure about Baxter of California.

I am confident, however, that Maigret’s technique for comparing real-life experience to web experience is a solid and significant, if under utilized, technique.  I plan to continue to use it in the future.