The Chuck Norris Play Palace

The story I am about to tell you is true.

Last night I dreamed that Chuck Norris opened a new soft-play palace in my town.

From the entrance, most of it looked pretty tame - arcade machines, amusements, that kind of thing - but at its centre was a three-storey-high ball pool. Every single ball in it (I believe there were 10,000, but it was probably more) was dark blue. I guess that's a Chuck Norris thing.

Naturally, I would have liked more information about this incredible ball pool (particularly on how to survive it as, through the glass, I could see more than a handful of unhappy faces down there at the bottom), so I headed over to the entrance booth to ask the ticket lady.

Instead of offering me any useful information, she tried to force a ticket into my hand and guide me through the process of paying and gaining access. I didn't want a ticket - I wanted information - but she wouldn't let up. So I handed back the ticket and walked away.

On my way out I spotted what I needed - firstly a customer service booth, set back from the entrance lobby and impossible to see from the front door, and secondly an enormous stack of leaflets covering every aspect of the Chuck Norris Play Palace in immense detail.

I headed over to the customer service guys and asked them why they didn't make the leaflets more visible, or offer more help at the ticket booth. They explained that people don't want information at the ticket booth - they just want to buy a ticket - and that most people who came into the Chuck Norris Play Palace had already decided to buy one anyway.

It probably says a lot about me that, as soon as I woke up today, I saw the analogy with online marketing.

Calls to action are all well and good, but you need to consider that your customer might want more information before deciding whether to make a purchase. If you're lucky, they'll be looking for information about two similar products, both of which you supply. If not, that info could make the difference between gaining a sale and losing it to a competitor site.

The Chuck Norris Play Palace was like an adequately designed website - areas for sales, for information and even for human contact - but it was hardly best-in-class.

Flexibility is key to a good website and the internet allows you to take things to the fourth dimension. Those leaflets don't need to be in any one place - you can link to your information section or catalogue PDF from every page of your site. Likewise with contact details - and if you have email, phone, fax, live chat and postal addresses (not to mention Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc...) then make sure they're on every page, in the footer, or the header, or the sidebar.

I'm not dissing Chuck Norris, by any means, but if he just spent a little more time online I think his record-breaking ball pool could easily be packed with people the next time I dream it up, and not just be a load of balls.

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