Editor’s note: Anthony D. Clark, Founder and Principle Consultant at EfficiencyLab.Recently I was in an unfamiliar town and had some errands to run. The first stop was a store to pick up a few things.

From the front it looked amazing. It looked like they had spent a fortune on a live band to perform some music, entertainers performing magic, and other acts. But they had a sign pointing to a side door that said, “If you need something quickly and don’t have time to sit and watch the entertainment we spent a lot of money on, please just use the side entrance.” Since I was pressed for time, and the entertainment was actually kind of cheesy and irrelevant, I chose the side door.

The store I chose turned out to actually be what a comedian once called an inconvenience store. Instead of shelves, everything was just haphazardly laid out on the floor, without any rhyme or reason. I spent some time trying to find the things on my list, but quickly grew frustrated. I looked around for some help, but there wasn’t anyone around to ask. I finally gave up and left.

Now this wasn’t actually a town, but the Internet. The store wasn’t a true brick and mortar store, but a company web site. The irrelevant storefront entertainment was one of those annoying “Skip Intro” Flash presentations that almost always get skipped.

The point of the story is that what is accepted practice when dealing with the digital world, namely the web, would never be accepted in the “real world.” Bad information organization is common when dealing with a company web site. And nine times out of 10, the bad information management goes further into the company. Giving the impression of poor organization, or irrelevant information, reflects on the image of the company.

The key to information efficiency on a web site is to ensure that any information that will be available to current and potential customers be presented in a way that makes sense to them. Using common or industry specific conventions (for business-to-business targeted sites) in naming, organization, and format provides a baseline for those who are seeking out your products or services.

Resources are better spent on good information design and organization, rather than on flashy, but irrelevant content. Though aesthetics are extremely important in any form of presentation, the “form follows function” maxim is critical in the customer choice oriented world of the Web. Making information difficult to access alienates customers and returns potential customers to the next hit on Google.

Going beyond the latest “customer experience” buzzword requires a solid understanding on how your customers think, and what they really need. Which is often not what you consider. Provide an easy way to give feedback, and continually refine information and presentation based on the feedback. People like to do business with people, not technology. If you provide an inefficient or poorly organized site, your site becomes an inconvenience store. Show your customers that you understand their needs and welcome their feedback, and your Web site becomes a valuable tool to interact with them.

Anthony D. Clark in the Founder and Principal Consultant with EfficiencyLab, whose primary focus is simplifying how organizations develop, use, and manage their information systems and assets. Call 704-971-0050 or visit www.efficiencylab.com for more information.