There are times websites may not work as the user expected. This could be because the User expects it to work a different way, or they have used the website in an unexpected way.

There are some instances where the website is not operating as expected for that user. As the first contact with the users, there are a few simple things you can do to resolve the most common issues, and if it’s an uncommon issue, there is information you can collect from the User that will assist in resolving it quickly.

There are so many combinations it’s hard to test them all

When you do the technical testing of your website, it’s a good idea to try it on a few different devices and browsers. This will help to identify the most common technical issues.

But some users are accessing the internet in unexpected ways. We’ve had a few calls where users were having trouble, and found they were still using a very old version on Windows, Windows98, along with a Windows Explorer browser.

Windows Explorer isn’t supported by Microsoft anymore, so it’s quite unexpected for a user to still be using it. The new browser, Edge, isn’t a well known as Chrome or Firefox.

The solution, in that case, was for the user to access the site from their mobile - their computer was older but their mobile quite new, and they were able to access the website from there.

There are about 3 million Australians who are digitally excluded, and this can sometimes be due to technology, and sometimes due to opportunities to learn and adapt to new technology.

Managing Expectations

The users’ expectations of the process are not always how it actually works. If a user encounters something they did not expect, they will often contact you to report it was a ‘bug’. This no not always accurate, as the process is working as expected by the organisations, and is not considered a ‘bug’.

There are a number of ways that users might expect the process to work that turn out to be different. For examples, if a user is in the summary in the checkout, unticks to remove the items they already select and refreshes checkout, they may expect the items remain visible and unticked. The checkout will remove unticked items when refreshed, and will not show any items. This is the normal process for the checkout, but not what the user expected to happen.

Walk through the process with the user

When a user contacts you to report something they think is a problem, the first step is to ask them what they did and try to complete the same steps they did on your computer.

This will tell you if they are using the expected process, or something a little different. Different users will approach things in different ways, and sometimes this means they will enter or exit a process in an unanticipated manner.

Often the resolution will be to walk the User through the expected process. Of the user reports, this would generally account for about 80% of contact from users.

What to ask

  1. did the user access the site from a desktop or mobile device
  2. what device was it (PC or MC? Apple iPad? Android Phone?)
  3. what browser were they using (usually Firefox, Chrome etc)
  4. what were they doing when they got the error? e.g. checking out?
  5. what was the URL of the page?

This is great feedback

In website design, there’s a big difference between the technical testing (e.g. clicking all navigation to make sure it works) when you first go live, and the ongoing user feedback after you get real users start to interact with the site.

When a user calls to say they expected the website to do something differently, this is great feedback for how to refine your website.

Where possible, it’s great to capture this feedback, along with some basic information about the users, and use it to refine your website. Some of the elements can be refined very easily, like the labels and help text in the data collection. Other may take longer, or require a redesign. This information will be valuable when it comes to your next website redesign.