• Sam Decker

The Parking Lot Lesson on the Cost of Quality



It was probably one of those older strip malls. There were few entrances, and those available were awkward or narrow. Once in, you failed to navigate the most efficient route to your store. Once in a while, you may have run into a family in a minivan because right of ways weren’t clear. There weren’t enough parking spaces. And once you found a spot, it was so narrow you had to oil your hips to get out else risk denting the neighbor’s car.


Have you experienced parking lots like this??


I thought about something I’m sure few frustrated drivers think about…

Someone actually designed that horrible parking lot!


What did they think when they were finished? They probably believed they did a great job. And the Owner of the strip mall development (the hirer and decision-maker) may have thought the same. Maybe they cared about efficiency and cost of the designer. Still, many hours and perhaps millions of dollars were invested. The parking lot will live for 50 years and tens of thousands of people will be frustrated. Perhaps many accidents.


The impact of the sunken incompetence is not immediately realized by the shopping center owners. Why would they care. The money is in the buidlings. The business impact is not readily measured at the time.


But, there is an impact.


Just the experience of that parking lot will cause customers to avoid shopping there. Drivers are quietly choosing to park elsewhere. And thus, that strip mall starts to wither. Businesses go out of business. The lessor has to drop the rents. And it all started with a decision to lose focus on quality of an element they didn't realize was more critical than they thought.


Perhaps this comprehensive demise of strip mall owner, business owners, and suffering of millions of customers could have been prevented with just a few thousand more dollars for the RIGHT engineer. Or a few more weeks of planning to get it right. Or learning best practices. Or testing.


Such is typically the story with a Web Site (or a book, or software, or anything else created once and experienced by man).


If you could tangibly measure tens of millions of questions and frustrations that tens of thousands of your visitors experience, you might readily agree that getting it right the first time is worth the investment. Certainly these frustrations are causing paying customers to click elsewhere. What do you think?


Bottom line: Planning time + (Engineer quality + Owner competence) * track record = ROI. Ultimate ROI. Quality is in the eye of the beholder. So get good eyes. Experience and track record – from the expert and the decision-maker — pays off.


p.s. I speak from experience. I suffered from a terrible parking lot in a serious way. I was in the back seat of a Volvo (fortunately) when another car broadsided my side of the car because it seemed there were two throughways on the lot. Fortunately, I had been in that horrible lot before and had right-of-way paranoia. I saw the the truck coming towards us early enough to jump to the other side of the car and suffer just a few scrapes from the broken glass.