Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

5 things we can learn from the Winston-Salem Hampton-Inn Toaster Czar

See why the Soup Nazi is a bad model for supporting users of your church and/or charity website .This weekend, I ran into an elderly gentleman whom appointed himself the ‘Toaster Czar’ in a fashion similar to the infamous ‘Soup Nazi‘ of Jerry Seinfeld fame. I made the mistake leaving my bagel momentary unattended to go get coffee while trying to enjoy the complimentary breakfast at the Hampton Inn Winston-Salem-I-40/Hanes Mall. Here are 5 things your church and/or charity webmaster can learn from this experience:

  1. don’t assume you know your user’s context;
  2. don’t assume you know your users work-flow;
  3. don’t assume you know what’s best for your user;
  4. don’t assume your user will appreciate your intervention; and
  5. don’t assume your user is stupid.

Note that all 5 points deal with assumptions. For example, regarding context, one might assume that the individual pictured below is waving and saying “hellooo” – or they could be waving us off saying “noo.”

bagels enjoyed in the public setting of the Hampton Inn Hotel lobby

Another example, regarding knowing what’s best, thinking they are stupid and/or not understanding their work-flow, the aforementioned toaster czar possibly assumed that the unattended bagel in slots 1 and 2 of a 4 slot toaster were either:

  • done;
  • done enough;
  • abandoned;
  • in his way; and/or
  • there to annoy him

Whether or not my opinion of his motives are correct, my view is that he potentially didn’t take into consideration the following user-centric scenarios:

  • some like to eat their bagels in the context of their coffee;
  • some like to engage in a work-flow that includes getting coffee while the bagel toasts;
  • some are confused when 1 slice of the bagel remains in the toaster while the other sits on the counter, replaced by some one else’s bagel half;
  • some lose their appetite when others not involved in food services touching their food; and
  • some don’t like being treated as if they are the problem when in fact all they wanted to do was toast their bagel and eat breakfast in relative peace.

In the same way, you as church webmasters should consider that your users:

  • may like to consume your church website content in some other context other than initially planned – for example, aggregators and/or mobile phones come to mind;
  • may like to consume your charity website in an order other (work-flow) than initially imagined and/or programmed – for example, site navigation through search engines comes to mind;
  • may need more information when things operate outside of normal expectations – for example, more informative 404 errors for pages not found come to mind;
  • Click here to see a video about Nick Burns, a hilariously popular character of former SNL funnyman Jimmy Fallon.may get turned-off if they find content they contributed modified without annotation – for example, modifying a user’s comment on a church blog or bbs without noting it was edited by a moderator or admin will drive users away permanently;
  • may not want nor like the Jimmy Fallon/Nick Burns ‘Your Company’s Computer Guy‘ approach to web site support (let alone a communal toaster).

Bottom line, don’t be a toaster czar.

Treat users as you would guests in your house, not as idiot low-life’s whom annoy by making you wait an extra minute or two simply because they happened to get to the proverbial toaster 30 seconds before you did.

In other words, you are not your users – so don’t assume you completely understand their interface to your system without collecting realistic and specific usage metrics and spending some time setting next to them while they demonstrate how they navigate your site the way they do, and why.

What about you? Got a similar story or useful use case/test scenario to share? Leave comment in love!

In the meantime I leave you with this aggregation from the above caricatures : “moooove … no soup for you!… was that so hard? … come back, 1 year … you’re Welcome

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