Some things should just be easy. Intuitive.
I was thinking about this recently when I opened up the boxes containing my Christmas Tree. As I started to separate out the branches, I realized that somehow, I had forgotten where I placed the assembly instructions. (As a kid, we always had a similar problem, but it was compounded by the fact that our tree did not have little plastic rings on the branches, but rather bits of paint that had worn off over 22 years of use.) I couldn't remember the order that the branches went in this year and so I had to eyeball it. After putting the wrong sized branches on the bottom for the SECOND time, I felt the spirit of the season waning in me and the curse words rising. Eventually, I got everything on the tree in the right order, but I want to share with you the color order: Orange, White, Blue, Burgundy, Black, Brown, Yellow.
Really? Why not just do the branches in the ONE set of color order that everyone can remember. Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, and if you need it, THEN use white. We all learned the rainbow when we were little, and it would make much more sense to me, as an end user of this product, if the development team had thought for two seconds to tap in to basic human behavior and universal thought. But they didn't see fit to do this, so my tree, during the assembly phase, gets to hear the less pleasant parts of my vocabulary.
When was the last time you visited your own property's website? Here's a better question: When was the last time you asked your MOM to visit your property's website? The boomers are a big generation out there and lots of them are coming into our multifamily housing lives, whether we're ready for them or not. Some are tech savvy, some are not. The tech savvy ones can deal with finding a way around your long, noisy, and seizure inspiring flash intro page. Those who can't are going to click to another site because they can't get yours to do anything for them. How about your online rent payment process? Have you ever walked through it yourself or had your mom or another family member walk through it? You'd may be surprised at how confusing some "EZ 2 Follow!" instructions can really be.
Of course, a lot of you who fight with older property management computer systems know the fun of not having an intuitive product there, as well. Oh sure, some of these programs are very intuitive...if you've got experience in accounting and ran a computer during the 90's when DOS was the operating system powerhouse. But if you don't have either one of those things, when you're first learning you want to curse at the computer every time you fail to mirror the credits on both ledgers, or try to use the mouse when you're not supposed to, or you can't remember what the F keys do because you've never had to use them before.
Granted, a lot of things are getting better, much easier to use. But as we made things on our end more user friendly, have we remembered to simplify things on the other side of the leasing desk? I ask, because it's hard to hang on to a resident if they don't know how to communicate with you when technology gets in the way.
What other areas in our Multifamily world might we want to take a look at with someone else's eyes?