Mark Lawson’s recent interview with Bob Geldof revealed that lessons about usability can come from nearly 30 years ago. When reminded of his infamous swearing on Live Aid in 1985 Bob says to Mark:

“I was complaining about the fact that, at the time the announcers, the DJs, were talking about writing in your cheque but that world had gone, and it was like ‘No, it needs to be more immediate, get on the phones'”

And then they played the clip which revealed that Bob didn’t say “Give us your f**king money” at all. When the DJ host said “We’re going to give the address first aren’t we?” He responds: “F**k the address, let’s get the numbers”.

He wasn’t frustrated about Live Aid donors not being motivated enough, he was swearing about the rubbish means of donation being offered to them…about usability!

It’s rare that the issue of charity donation is talked about so publicly and emotionally. A TED talk by Dan Pallotta was – rightly – shared a lot and applauded. His main emphasis was on the destructive tendency of seeing charities as needing to perform ‘efficiently’ at the expense of grand ambitions that can achieve huge outcomes and even change society.

It’s hard to imagine an  inspiring TED talk about ensuring online donation journeys are fast, focused and incessantly optimised. But what’s the point of big, hairy, ambitious fundraising goals if the user is left waiting for the page to load, or distracted by other links, or slapped with a massive interstitial Cookie warning?

Many charity websites have have superb  donation journeys. But some seem to act as if getting people to click on the Donate button is the objective, that getting us to want to give is enough. A bit like the short-sightedness of the DJ on Live Aid who shows a moving and inspiring film, then asks people to remember where the chequebook is,  go and hunt for an envelope and ask someone for a pen (instead of just reach over and pick up the phone).

Motivating people to donate is the art, but it’s nothing without the good ol’ boring craft of test, tweak, polish (repeat) – user-focused processes, which Bob Geldof might say are also deeply f**king important. Perhaps charities should run ‘The Bob Test’ – would the online donation process make him swear and, if so, how badly?