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Great Online User Experience Gives You Fans, Not Just Customers

Form Optimisation

So you’re achieving sales, but what sort of experience are your customers having? Did they find it easy to find what they were looking for? Did they have to visit your FAQs? Did it take a long time to go through the checkout? You should be asking yourself how your customers feel about your company after completing an action such as buying a product from you.


From the moment a visitor lands on your website to the end of the sales or sign up process they’re forming an opinion of you. The final stages of that experience may be the deciding factor between creating a fan or an unhappy customer.

Have you gone the extra mile to not just guarantee conversions but make the whole process of buying from you as painless as possible?

Fans, not just customers

Vernon Hill, American businessman and author of Fans Not Customers: How to Create Growth Companies in a No Growth World, suggests that, to succeed, companies should compete on service not price. As the title of his book suggests, he thinks that instead of winning customers it’s more powerful to create fans of your business.

He has applied this theory to Metro Bank (a subsidiary of Commerce Bank). For them, brand is everything: “To create fans, you have to build an emotional brand that you’re enthusiastic about”.

Metro Bank have built a brand that is first and foremost about providing great customer service. To this end they’ve done away with sales-based staff incentives and introduced free money-exchange machines for spare cash, free pens and dog-welcoming branches. All these measures make it easier for customers to bank. They’ve done away with traditional bank rules and its something every industry can learn from.


What’s the difference between a happy customer and a sad one?

With both a happy customer and a sad one you’ve still made a sale, so what’s the big deal, right? The difference is that fans get excited just thinking about you. They want to bring conversations around to talking about you. Their enthusiasm is infectious and it’s up to you to grab that kind of promotional potential.

So what could give you unhappy customers? Well, bad online forms might.

Forms are rarely fun but when they become difficult or time consuming to complete that’s when you begin to create an unhappy customer. A user that has to change several automatically selected fields is experiencing a less intuitive form. In-line form validation is now so common that when a form doesn’t do it the user may feel unsure and will almost certainly feel frustrated if they have to pick a new username or password after submitting the form.

A happy customer on the other hand is a customer who breezes through the form, making minimal changes and who feels absolutely confident it their selections.

Good vs bad UI

The user interface (UI) of your website is the crucial point at which you can start creating a fan rather than just a customer.

The user interface is everything that visitors to your website or users of your app interact with, also known as the ‘front end’. This means every visual aspect of the site, every interactive element e.g. buttons, and the way your site feels to use come together via the user interface.

“Good design is how it works” (Steve Jobs).

A company like Apple has legions of fans. If you talk to one of them you’re sure to have your ear chewed off about the great UI all Apple products have. Apple took off precisely because they offered a far better user experience than Microsoft. They continue to outclass Microsoft and their competitors e.g. Android, by consistently providing the best interface.


(Pfeiffer Report: Mobile Operating System User Experience Index)

How good UI can make happy customers

Websites with great UI, beautifully laid out products, easy add-to-cart features and simple forms make your site more enjoyable to use. By eliminating as many barriers to sale as possible you’ll not only increase your conversions but produce happy customers.

Below are a few examples of sales paths that are optimised to improve the customer’s experience.


Geekli.st’s sign up form is interesting because it encourages users to choose more secure passwords by highlighting how strong or weak their choice is.

Sign up password field

By telling the user how long it would take to crack their password Geekli.st are going the extra mile to provide an interesting and positive experience. Just this small difference in their sign up form does several things:

  • gives an interesting piece of information that will appeal to their customer base

  • gives the user a greater understanding of why the password is weak

  • gamifies password selection, encouraging the user to try to beat the ‘crack time’ by choosing a really secure password.


Asos make things easier for repeat customers by saving their details (if you agree to it), speeding up the order process. Note that they’re also careful to ensure security, re-requesting the CVV number of cards. Asos are reducing the most laborious parts of online shopping while still ensuring their shoppers feel secure.

Asos payment page


Firebox combine a quirky personality with a great sales process. When you add an item to basket this is confirmed without sending you to a new page. This allows you to continue shopping or carry on to the checkout. The shopper is in control and informed, two things that create a positive experience.

Added to basket message

Firebox’s testimonials also tell the story of fantastic customer service and how the quality of their UI created notably happier customers.

“I will be spreading the word that Firebox has excellent customer service skills.”

“Fab website!”

“The site is highly mobile friendly and found using it appealing and painless. Hats off to you firebox staff!”

“I love the way you guys talk to your own customers online. It’s great! Even something as mundane as an auto-confirmation email for a purchase has a sprinkle of Firebox-goodness, your own voice, spiffingly demonstrating what a cute and marvellous bunch you all are.”

As these Firebox testimonials show, creating a fantastic user experience can turn your customers into brand ambassadors. Instead of one-time users they become long-term fans who come to you again and again.

John Lewis

John Lewis offer a great example of how best to ask customers for a delivery address.

address form fields

Using only two fields, the house number/name and the postcode, this form save customers from having to fill out their whole address. Many web forms leave the manual entry fields visible or fail to make the ‘Find address’ prominent enough.

Plenty of possible pain points

Getting the customer journey right up to and beyond the point of sale is tough. Businesses spend years and lots on resource getting it right. Make sure your form isn’t one of the things that could damage your brand image and leave a sour taste in the mouth of customers, even if they do buy from you. Make fans, and not just customers.