The Parking Lot Lesson of Quality


Have you ever driven a bad parking lot?

It was probably one of those older strip malls. There were few entrances, and those available were awkward or narrow. Once in, you failed to navigate the most efficient route to your store. Once in a while, you may have run into a family in a minivan because right of ways weren’t clear. There weren’t enough parking spaces. And once you found a spot, it was so narrow you had to oil your hips to get out else risk denting the neighbor’s car.

I’ve experience parking lots like these. The other day I thought about something I’m sure very few frustrated drivers think about…

Someone actually designed that bassackwards layout of asphalt! What did they think when they were finished? They probably believed they did a great job, and the Owner (decision-maker) they worked for may have thought the same. Many hours and perhaps millions of dollars were invested. Therefore, it’s unlikely they’ll ever change that parking lot.

Unfortunately, millions of frustrated drivers will suffer that lot, unbeknownst to the original engineer. Perhaps the impact of the sunken incompetence is not immediately realized by the shopping center owners. The business impact is not readily measured, and perhaps not readily valued by the inexperienced lessee of the strip mall.

Nonetheless, that lot is causing paying customers to go across the street. Unless there is a monopoly inside that crappy lot, drivers are quietly choosing to park elsewhere. And thus, the strip mall starts to wither. Businesses go out of business. The lessor has to drop the rents. Neither side likely to realize it all started with the lack of quality engineered in the very beginning.

Perhaps this comprehensive demise of strip mall owner, business owners, and suffering of millions of customers could have been prevented with just a few thousand more dollars for the RIGHT engineer. Or a few more weeks of planning to get it right.

Such is typically the story with a Web Site (or a book, or software, or anything else created once and experienced by man).

If you could tangibly measure tens of millions of questions and frustrations that tens of thousands of your visitors experience, you might readily agree that getting it right the first time is worth the investment. Certainly these frustrations are causing paying customers to click elsewhere. What do you think?

Bottom line: Planning time + (Engineer quality + Owner competence) * track record = ROI. Quality is in the eye of the beholder. So get good eyes. Experience and track record – from the expert and the decision-maker — pays off.

p.s. I speak from experience. I have suffered emotionally and ultimately physically, from a terribly designed parking lot next to Dell. I was in the back seat of a Volvo (fortunately) when another car broadsided my side of the car. Fortunately, I was adequately paranoid of “right-of-way ambiguity” to see the truck coming towards me – early enough to jump to the other side of the car and suffer just a few scrapes from the broken glass.

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