The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly of Customer Experience

September 10, 2009

“Please see the cashier inside to get your receipt”

It was the second straight time that I had received this message after pumping gas at a neighborhood station. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the whole purpose of paying at the pump. I want convenience. I want to be able to pump my gas, get my receipt, not have to interact with anyone, and then get on my way. I wonder if they do this on purpose to get people into the store, where they are enticed to buy something sweet.

A poor customer experience.

Tonight on the way home from the office, I was at my neighborhood Walmart. One of the things I like about this store is that it is close to my house and it is convenient. One of the reasons for it’s convenience is self-checkout. But on recent visits, those lanes have been closed and only one register is open. So I have to stand in line when I want to be on my way home.

Tonight, they only had two of the four self checkout lanes open. It meant I had to stand in line there, or go to another line where I had to interact with a cashier. I want convenience and to be on my way to spend time with my family.

Another poor customer experience.

Where Shopping is a Pleasure

Contrast my Walmart experience with going to Publix later tonight. (I really like Publix but go to Walmart more often because it is closer to my house and the prices are lower.) Publix’s tag line is “where shopping is a pleasure.” I cannot think of an experience I have had at Publix where it was not a pleasure. I actually like interacting with Publix employees because they have a smile on their face and genuinely want to serve the customer. They value their customers. I don’t always feel that way at Walmart.  I usually leave Publix with a smile on my face, or at least in my heart because it has been a pleasurable experience.

Going Online

As a Web designer, I think a lot of customer or user experience. My passion for user experience comes from the fact that before I was a Web designer, I was a Web user and I still am. I learn so much by reflecting upon my own experiences online.

Tonight, I was online trying to register for State Farm’s Web site. My car insurance premium is due and wouldn’t you know it, I am out of checks. I hardly ever use checks except to pay a few bills and give to my local church. So I went online to pay my bill. It would have been nice if State Farm mentioned this online payment option on my bill. I found out about this option by calling my local agent. I can only describe my online experience as painful. I had log-in multiple times and encountered several application errors before completing my task. A poor experience.

Minutes later, I was paying my Discover bill online. Discover has a great Web site. They make it easy for you to get your task done and get on with your life. A lot of the success of their user experience is due to the visual design that make the interactions clear. Nice big buttons help me to navigate my way to my destination. Of course, most of the time, I don’t even think about the experience. It meets my expectations and I accomplish my task. Not memorable but definitely pleasurable in the sense that I accomplish my task and come move on to things like writing this blog post. Way to go Discover Card.

So what do I take away from my experiences tonight. I am challenged to consider how I help the people that use the sites I design.

  • Are the call to actions clear?
  • Can they easily find what they want?
  • Are they able to accomplish their tasks quickly and move on to some other aspect of their life?
  • Does the visual design I create provide an pleasurable environment that the user may not be consciously aware of?
  • Do those who visit my sites have a good experience as they accomplish their task? In the end, that is what matters the most to me.

How do your good or bad experiences in the offline or online world affect your work as a designer or developer? Please share your thoughts.


  1. Jason Weaver

    September 10th, 2009

    Man I hate it when you pay at the pump and then you are prompted to go inside to pay the cashier. Not cool.

    I think the ability to wrap a elements around block content in HTML5 will help us make better user experiences.

  2. Jeff

    September 11th, 2009


    Could you give a little more explanation to how this will help the user experience.

  3. Jason Weaver

    September 20th, 2009

    Wrapping a elements around H3 and p or embedded definition lists within lists etc. will ultimately allow for larger click areas. Resulting in a better user experience. Designers have already been using this technique. But with HTML5 it validates.