Divine Discontent?

An old issue of BusinessWeek that I came across (from August 2004) had an interview with Jeff Bezos where he talked about needing a culture of “divine discontent.” I’m not sure who is the divine one in this, although clearly jeff could be seen as a god (small g) of internet commerce. He was there at the beginning and is still there all these years later – when so many who came along at the same time or even afterwards are long since gone.

He went on to say that every day he notes 10 things that are wrong with the site or the service offered and sets about fixing them. Now, you can do this if you’re the boss of course! I agree with the principle though. Too many websites are left to stagnate. Content is added and then forgotten about. Errors are left for all to see, corrections are never made. Inaccuracies are left alone. In short, it seems to me that the people who create the sites aren’t the ones that use them. They wait for customers to send in feedback about broken things – yet don’t provide easy ways to give that feedback. And, if they do, how many people take the trouble to provide it rather than move on, find a different site, or do it a different way?

The other day I used the TV licensing site to get my first ever licence (I’ve learned – the noun has a “c”!) and it came up, at the end, with a scripting error. Last week I sent a complaint to the Royal Mail about their service – the site isn’t built to render properly on a Mac.

A culture of editorial discontent with websites is a necessary thing. The problem, I suspect, is that there’s always time to publish something for the first time but rarely time to go back and see how it looks later. The job just keeps getting bigger and bigger, the more that is put online.

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