Business Lessons Learned From A Humiliating Day At The Beach

A few years ago, while vacationing on Cape Cod, I decided it was time to conquer my fear of water and try surfing. It was a beautiful clear day which allowed us to enjoy an uninterrupted view of nothing but sea with a few large boats in the distance. The waves were high enough that only about a dozen people were in the water despite the July heat. Thinking that bravery was all I needed to overcome my water demons–and ignoring the size of the waves–was my first error. After a long argument with myself, I finally grabbed a board and made my way into the water. As I paddled out, I kept thinking that my lily white arms could be beacons for every stinging and flesh-munching creature in the ocean. When I reached the place beyond breaking waves, I carefully positioned myself on the board so that no part of my body was in the water–and reminded myself to breathe. Fortunately, I didn’t have long to wait. My wave came and I was caught up in the most delicious ride. Lying prone on the board, I rode it all the way to the shore where I was deposited with a thunk.

And this is where I made my second–and most critical–mistake.

OMG Icon with red cheeks-embarrassedAs I lie on the board, exhausted, congratulating myself for feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I saw my family jump to their feet. They were waving and yelling. What I mistook for cheering was actually their horrified realization that a huge wave was making its way toward shore while I lay motionless on the board, apparently oblivious to the oncoming danger. Just as I lifted one hand to wave back, I felt my face slam down into the sharp sand and I began tumbling around and around forever. I was caught in a rip current. When it finally lost its force, it spit me out onto the beach in a spot I didn’t recognize. I was scratched and scraped everywhere. The force of that wave was evidenced by the sheer volume of bits of shell and sand that my body would continue to release in various ways over the next seven days.

The Business Lesson

There’s no sense going through humiliating (and scary) experiences if you can’t take something useful away. Here’s what I learned. It’s easy to get so caught up in congratulating ourselves on overcoming business challenges and achieving goals that we don’t see the next big wave coming up behind us. I’m seeing this play out in numerous businesses right now.NextWave

Today’s Next Big Wave Is Mobile

The growing use of mobile devices is that wave. But it’s bigger than a wave; it’s a tsunami. According to a Gartner report, the last quarter of 2013 marked the worst decline in PC sales in history and the seventh consecutive quarter of decreasing PC sales. Meanwhile, tablet and smartphone sales continue to rise sharply. We’re no longer satisfied to have the world on our desktop. We want access to the internet wherever we go, 24 hours a day. The danger is in not recognizing that traditional websites are incapable of meeting the expectations of mobile visitors.

Since we can’t control when or where people access our websites, the only way to ensure visitors and clients have a good experience is to adapt to the many platforms and screen sizes currently in use. A responsive website does this by shifting and optimizing your content according to the operating system and screen size of the mobile device.

Mobile devices put the world in our back pocket & challenge businesses to adapt. <– (Click here to tweet this)

How To Test Your Site

There’s no substitute for actually viewing and playing with your site on multiple devices, but there are a few online services that will emulate iPhones, tablets and Android devices for you. The best one I’ve found so far is the HubSpot Device Lab. Input your URL and it will give you several previews which you can scroll through. I can’t vouch for how they handle pop ups. If you’ve made the decision to use pop ups (I don’t think you should but I know they’re still popular) you need to do some very careful testing. From personal experience, many pop ups make websites virtually unusable on mobile devices. Anytime I’ve brought that problem to the owner’s attention, they’ve been surprised–so I know that website owners need to give this one some extra care and attention.

Take a few friends out for coffee. Ask if you can pull up your website on each of their devices. Pay particular attention to load times. A site with lots of graphics might look beautiful on a desktop but if it takes more than a couple of seconds to load on a mobile device, your risk of losing mobile visitors is high. If mobile visitors have to pinch and zoom to read your site, you have an immediate project to tackle. Business services and recruitment firms need to pay particular attention to the sign up process. If you haven’t optimized online forms for these devices, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

Remember the old adage about first impressions? It holds true online. You won’t get a second chance at a first impression.


Twitter icon - Connects to Susan Wright-Boucher on TwitterWant more business tips? Let’s connect on Twitter.


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18 comments

  1. Great story and nicely challenging and informative post, Susan. I will be following up on the testing with the Hubspot tool – much thanks for that tip.

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    1. Hi Des,
      Thanks so much for checking out my blog. I hope the HubSpot tool proves useful.

      Like

  2. 16maurice · · Reply

    I forgot to tell you I think this is one of the best you have written. I wish I had your insight.

    ________________________________

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    1. Thank you, 16maurice! I appreciate that. It’s funny, the things that happen to us in life that come back later and turn into a useful lesson. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

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  3. Another great post Susan. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Joelle – So glad you liked it! Thanks for taking the time to share a comment.

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  4. Thanks for the great story. I could feel your pain! Thanks for the heads up and reminder to check our blog on other devices. It’s easy to forget those very important details!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Holly – You’re very welcome. Thanks for coming over to read the story and for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Like

  5. Hello Susan,
    Love the wave story. You paint it so well, that I was holding my breath and rooting for you. I have been recently reviewing my sites, making changes and testing their load times. Compressing images, removing unnecessary files, clearing caches, using code instead of plugins (where possible), learning how to use WP Optimize plugin etc. Thanks for Hubspot device resource. I will check it out. -Peace & Blessings!, Phyllis

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Phyllis — you’re doing it all! I’d love to hear how you make out when it’s all done… what your key learnings were. Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment.

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  6. Great story Susan, made me smile. And then I went off and checked my website on Hubspot DEvice Lab. Ouch, mine looks dreadful. And that’s having asked my website guy to make my new site mobile friendly. Work to do. . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tilla, I’m so glad this was helpful. I got a very bad surprise a few months ago when I checked my website. It was terrible and had to be redone. Thanks so much for coming back and for leaving a comment. It’s always a pleasure.

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  7. That was a great article. The personal story always works for my attentions to anything :) BUT then you taught me something really important too. I love that combo. I’m just starting my website. I will go responsive for sure. I am always looking at things on the go and often if I can’t find what I want – I don’t think to go back later when I am at home.

    PS – I am on you page re pop ups too :)

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    1. Hi there, Kate:
      New website coming? That’s cool! I can’t wait to see it. Thanks very much for taking the time to read my post and leave a comment.

      Like

  8. Susan, You told this story brilliantly and then connected it to a powerful lesson. Well done and perfectly timed for me since I an launching a complete website redesign and re-branding of my business in the upcoming weeks, to coincide with my book’s release. I will follow your advice to the letter. Thank you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jamie – Wow, those are big projects — a book, rebranding, and a new website. I can’t wait! Thanks for letting me know how this article will help. I love that.

      Like

  9. Susan, great story and excellent analogy of the coming wave – or tsunami of mobile. I love how you wove your personal experience while on vacation in Cape Code and the wave into this, You are absolutely right. Mobile is here and is a growing means of how people are surfing the Internet. A responsive website is more important than ever. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Robin, I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. Hopefully more businesses will decide to “catch the wave” (lol). Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

      Like

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