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McGovern, G. (2010) The Stranger's Long Neck. A & C Black

the strangers long neck book cover

It is worth buying this book just so you can read these two quotes:

"The worst possible way to design a website is to have five smart people in a room drinking lattes and posting Post-it note ideas. The longer you leave them in the room, the worse the design will become. It's a proven fact."


"The web is not some back-end IT activity, it's a customer-facing, task-focused one. It's not about writing code and servicing machines, but about observing people so that you can serve them better or, more importantly, allow them to serve themselves."

It also carries a quote from James Dyson [he of vacuum cleaner fame]:

"There are two sides to the design coin. There is serious design - making sure that the manufactured object performs its task in the best possible way. And there is styling - the essentially superficial task of making sure something looks attractive ... styling for its own sake is a lazy 20th-century conceit, one that has passed its sell-by date."

The sub-title of the book is 'how to deliver what your customers really want online' more of less sums up what the the book is about - and to explain what the 'Long Neck' is [though 'stranger' is self-explanatory] would not only take too long, but spoil the book for you - go read it yourself. What I think the book is about is effective website content - and its development.

By the time I had finished the book it had a dozen or more sticky tabs in it where I had seen something for my website, books or classes - here's a couple:

On information: "Nobody cares about information for its own sake, except the creators of said information. The customer has a task they want to complete, a problem they want to solve. Information is only useful in the context of the task." I particularly like this as it ties in with what I teach, ie all marketing is about solving a customer's problem.

Three metrics of [online] task success:
Success rate - "if your customers can't complete the top task they came to your website to complete, your website fails" - but you do need to know what the task is.
Disaster rate - when a customer thinks they have competed the task but have if fact gotten the wrong answer.
Completion time - if you want to have a world class web site you must be absolutely and utterly obsessed with saving your customers' time.

In a nutshell -

if you have anything to do with developing a website you MUST
not only read this book, but become a convert to its message.

This page was first published on this domain in March 2018 ... but it was on for some years before that.

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