The horse had escaped. And she was chasing the baby goats around the field. And the dogs just ate the bucket of chicken eggs. And I was trying to change a diaper. Then, when I got out into our pasture, I discovered that the water in the sheep’s trough had frozen overnight, and they were bleating and looking forlornly at the ice.

Ten minutes later, everything had calmed down. Crises averted, I returned to my computer and what I had been working on. Just before all hell broke loose, I’d succeeded at the seemingly impossible task of finding a string of connecting flights between the U.S. and three European countries for a business trip I am making this summer.

I was at the “click to book” point.

[click]…

“We are sorry but your session has timed-out due to inactivity.”

“Inactivity! What the…?”

Twenty minutes later, I finally managed to get the entire trip booked. That frustrating little incident got me thinking about how websites so often let down their visitors – and what more you can, and should, be doing for your own customers.

Life happens – and it often gets in the way. But how many websites actually take that fact into consideration? For instance, why don’t website forms with a time restriction offer the user the ability to save what they’ve already entered if they’re unexpectedly called away before they’re done?

Or how about another bugbear of mine: Only after you’ve completed a website’s form does it tell you that your phone number should be formatted in a certain way or that your password “must contain a minimum of eight letters and numbers, one of which must be a capital letter.” Or that you must not enter your credit card number with any spaces. Er… um… but mine HAS a space in it.

Take a look at your own website right now. Look at it through your customers’ eyes. And see if any of these little gremlins are lurking – places where you or your programmer made an assumption about what your customers should already know. And then vanquish those hidden problems forever.

[Ed. Note: David Cross is Senior Internet Consultant for Agora Inc. There’s a lot you may not know about building an Internet business. David has the answers – and he’ll be sharing them with an exclusive group of business builders at ETR’s 5 Days in July conference.

Although David hails from Blackpool, England – which is often referred to as the “Las Vegas of England” – he shunned a career in show business and instead followed a meandering career path overflowing with “life’s great experiences,” working or living in over 20 countries along the way. Chef, teacher of Transcendental Meditation, guest presenter on QVC, earthquake relief volunteer, CEO of a web hosting company, marketer at a radio station and all combined with years of direct marketing, PR and sales experience for clients as diverse as health food stores, small charities and right up to multinational public companies.
David brought unique talent and experience to his role for six years as Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Publishing Group. Working closely with Agora’s publishers and marketers to test new ideas and marketing campaigns, Agora’s Internet revenues topped $200 million in 2007. David understands and can communicate fluently with creative “right-brain” marketers and analytical “left-brain” IT and software teams, all with equal ease. He has a proven track record for generating results and creative thinking and excels at making trouble to find new ways of making things happen!
He lives on a small farm close to Mount Hood in Oregon with his wife Cinda, a veterinarian, and their four children and a menagerie of animals (no more, please!). When not marketing or brainstorming you’ll find David following a dream of self-sufficiency for food, power and water within 10 years, tending the land and caring for the farm and animals. Not surprisingly, David is an engaging and knowledgeable speaker with many amusing anecdotes from his work and travels over the years.