Easy to Say, Hard to Do – Eliminate Friction

It doesn't matter if you're designing a new product or service, it takes a lot of work to get the new offering right. I'm in the middle of working on a new offering right now, and even though I've done this for years (and years), the work that it requires never gets smaller or easier. One of the hardest things to do (and clearly much easier to say) is this – to succeed you need to eliminate friction.

Think about every product you've never purchased. I'm not talking about products you don't want. I'm talking about the products that you do want, but don't end up buying.

Why didn't you make the purchase?

Or think about services that you've looked at and seriously considered. But you didn't pull the trigger?

Why didn't you decide to sign up?

Friction Creates Pauses

I'm guessing that in every case you think about or remember, you can also remember the moment when you paused. You considered and then reconsidered. In short, you paused.

That's what friction does. It creates pauses.

And those pauses give you the time to reevaluate and delay your purchase. Or even completely walk away from them.

Simple Examples of Friction

Just so we're clear on what I'm talking about, let's look at a handful of simple examples of the kind of friction I'm talking about.

Online Shopping

We've all been shopping online and added things to our cart only to see the price of shipping, or to experience a checkout flow creates friction, right? It's why I'm so bullish on Fast.co and why we partnered with them at Nexcess.net.

Buying Solution Plugins

If you've ever looked at a plugin for WordPress that was a “solution” – like for memberships or online courses – you've likely realized you also needed hosting. And that sends you down a rabbit hole looking for the best hosting for your new site. That creates friction and a pause.

Minor Home Repairs

Let's move to an offline example. Ever thought about doing some minor home repair? I'm not talking about replacing a lightbulb. But it could be something like hanging a new lighting fixture (or even more complex). What happens when you realize you might not have the right tools and need to visit the hardware store? That's right – friction. And that often means you delay the quick work right?

How Do You Eliminate Friction?

In every one of those situations the friction either delays your interest, intent, and effort, or completely kills it. That's why it's so critical to eliminate the friction.

So how do you do it? Here's how I do it, and I hope it helps you.

Map the customer journey

Start by mapping out the entire experience that a customer has or will have for the purchase of your new (or existing) product or service. Simply start at the beginning and walk thru the process. Don't stop at the purchase. Make sure you look at the steps after a purchase (onboarding) as well.

Map every touch point

For each interaction or touch point, where the customer interacts with you, dig in and describe everything that they experience, even if it's not with you. This is where it gets tricky.

Let me give you an example.

In the hosting world, you make a purchase. That's a touch point. But the resulting interaction is that you also have to go back to your inbox and wait for emails. In those emails will be the link to the hosting account provisioned for you. You need that link, and it's part of that touch point even if it's not part of the purchase experience.

Look for every pause

Now that you have the entire flow, and you've stepped into each interaction and looked for the additional steps that come from the touch points, look for places where nothing is happening.

If you sell a product, for example, and a customer has to wait for an email to get a link to your product, that wait is a pause. And that pause is friction.

If you offer a service but a customer has to wait to book a call with you, how long do they have to wait? That's a pause that you likely need to look at.

Now eliminate the friction

Now that you have your pauses, the work really starts. To eliminate the friction you'll have to eliminate those pauses. You may even have to do things differently to ensure that there's no pause.

Time for another quick example.

In the old WordPress days, you would go to WordPress.org and download a .zip file of the code. Then you'd go get a hosting account, and you'd have to upload (FTP) the file and install it.

Along came Managed WordPress hosts like Pagely and they offered a solution where you got provisioned a hosting account / site with WordPress already installed. Work eliminated. Pause eliminated. Friction eliminated.

This is exactly what Fast.co does

You remember that example of checking out during eCommerce? Fast.co has done exactly this. They have eliminated friction so that checkouts are…wait for it…fast.

The good news is that you can do it too.