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Hiding key information is a form of lying.

Figure out your weak points

Put embarrassing information where they need it

Have you ever put a product in your shopping cart, then gone to check out, entered your credit card number, and gone to a confirmation page only to discover that the shipping charges are outrageous?

That outrage arises on many sites, because the designers feel guilty about the charges, and fear that if you know the shipping costs in advance, you will refuse to buy. Actually, hiding these costs leads to a high rate of abandoned shopping carts.

Best practice: Put the shipping options--and their costs--on every product page. The costs vary by weight, delivery time, delivery service. That's understandable.

But part of the buying decision involves figuring out the total cost, so visitors need to see these options, and the costs, before they can confidently go ahead with the purchase.

Test: go to any ecommerce site and see how well they hide their policy on returning products. (Most sites seem to figure that they will avoid returns if they refuse to talk about them, or limit their mention to a few cryptic sentences, implying that only Martians need to consider the issue).

Related articles

Creating customer assistance that actually helps, from Hot Text: Web Writing that Works (2002, PDF, 993K, or about 18 minutes at 56K)

Writing in a genre (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 770K, or about 13 minutes at 56K)

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from Hot Text, Web Writing that Works (PDF, 995K, or about 18 minutes at 56K)

Hiding key information is a form of lying.

Don't do it.

Remember: people have seen, elsewhere on the Web, sites that expose all this information at first glance.

People know you can do it. So redesign your pages to give people the facts that your team feels may be embarrassing.

Figure out your weak points

We're not just talking shipping rates, here.

Your team knows what facts are most embarrassing, because the reviewers have complained about those aspects of the product, customers keep calling in with questions about them, and your competitors take pleasure in pointing to those weaknesses.

Expose yourself, then. Overcome the shame, and include those facts along with the more positive ones.

How come?

On the Web, people will find this stuff out anyway, sooner or later. If you tip your hand, right off, they feel they can trust you.

But if you hide the facts, or reveal them only when you have to (like at the last moment during the order process), you make people mad. Arrrgn!



Now let's see, I inserted Leg M into Slot M, but...


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