I’ve been helping a business school lately with the strategy for their executive education site, and part of my background work has been to conduct one-on-one interviews with corporate learning officers (CLOs)—those who either create internal educational programs or connect individuals with development opportunities offered by third-parties like business schools. Let me please say that I love talking to people for projects like this almost as much as some have liked talking with me (I’d heard from more than one person that it’s like therapy). In our kickoff meeting, my client told me that CLOs look for program details, faculty members, timeframe, cost, and outcomes. Makes sense, but this quote from one interviewee really captured my attention:
“What every guy in my chair fears most is having an executive go away to a program for two weeks and say ‘it was a horrible experience’.”
That statement explained so much to me about my audience: why recommendations from colleagues are so important, why most general collateral ends up in their trash can, why they tend to build longstanding relationships with some institutions to the exclusion of other—perhaps more-qualified—providers, and why the ability to register online was not at the top of their wishlist.
It’s one thing to know what someone comes to your website for. It’s quite another, however, to get a glimpse into the feelings and motivations that drive expectations for information, service, and interaction. Understanding what’s happening in someone’s head and heart helps us to build a better web experience for the people we’re trying to reach. It was true more than a decade ago when we first started talking about visitor-centered design, and it’s true today. And it’s a large part of what keeps our work interesting.