5. What does reliability mean?
Through the decades, many companies have demonstrated and proven the long-term value of reliability. Every business school’s favorite example is Toyota, arguably the most successful auto manufacturer in history thanks to their dedication to reliability as we’ve defined it. Its close competitor Honda also embraces reliability, and they too have continued to prosper over time. Consumers have come to understand that nearly every vehicle made by either company can be counted on to be ‘bulletproof.’ Reliability over time is as good as money in the bank for your business.
When this book was started, the intention was to make it just long enough to read on an average flight. You may very well be sitting on an airplane as you read this. So you’re pretty heavily invested in the reliability of several million aircraft components right now, aren’t you? Don’t worry. You’re safe. You’re even safer up here in the air than you would be on the ground in your super reliable Toyota or Honda. But if the aerospace industry had not been obsessed with reliability for decades, where would you be? Most likely you wouldn’t be gambling with your life and sitting in this cramped seat between the nervous chatty woman and Mr. Pointy Elbows there. It comes down to your trust in the airplane and in the team maintaining and flying it. You feel safe, you exhale, you read a book.
The first clue you’re looking at a reliable website is when you can find it easily on the web. Your next clue; its organization is sane and coherent, the navigation is intuitive. The data architecture speaks to the needs of the customer. The pages load quickly every time and don’t break when viewed in various browsers and mobile devices. They reliably look the same everywhere. And you can get to where you're going because the path to what you need is clear and simple. Bugs and distractions are few and far between, indicating that the team behind the site is stable, benevolent, trustworthy, and dedicated to maintaining it over time. The follow up that takes place once you submit a form or make a purchase is quick and courteous. And lastly, the web property, whether a website or a mobile app, can be counted on as a portal for service if you need further help in the future.
When you think about web reliability you think about flow; the flow of customer desire through a website. Customer desire flows 'in' through marketing activities. Then customer desire flows 'through' the website thanks to good system architecture, UX, and visual design. Then customer desire flows 'out' of the website and into fulfillment and support systems that help complete customer transactions.
All of these things combined demonstrate what web reliability means in practice. And from your point of view as the website owner, you know the web property is reliable when it reliably generates revenue for you.