Once upon a time, a traveler entered a nondescript pizza palace. On each of the red-and-white clothed tables were squat shakers of parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper. The air smelled of garlic, oregano, and all the trappings of traditional East Coast pizzerias.
The traveler approached the counter, surveying the options available. Pepperoni sounded good. “Shopkeep! I’d like a pepperoni slice, if you will.”
A mustachioed man, wiping his hands on a stained, white apron, waddled out from the kitchen. His name tag read: Sal. “You want that to go?”
Sal went over to the heated, see-through cabinet housing the available pies. With the muscle memory of generations, he maneuvered the pizza cutter with fast yet effortless agility across the face of the 20” pepperoni pie, making eight triangular slices. He placed one pepperoni slice onto a double paper plate and moved it to the counter, by the register. “That’ll be $2.50.”
The traveler placed exact change on the counter, but rather than accept payment, Sal held up his floury hand. “One sec—let me finish first.”
With one hand, Sal picked off each circle of pepperoni from the slice, placing them individually into his other hand. Once done, he slid the plate across the counter to the traveler with a beaming please-come-again-tell-your-friends-rate-us-positively-on-yelp grin.
The traveler did not reach for the plate. The traveler blinked in slow succession before saying, “Uh.”
Sal had turned back to the kitchen, not noticing the traveler’s utterance. The traveler was more direct. “Excuse me, sir, but what the hey-ho was that?”
Sal raised his eyebrows (not quite knitted together enough above the bridge of his nose to be deemed a single brow) at the traveler. “Sorry?”
“I asked for a single pepperoni slice and, in serving it to me, you removed all the pepperoni slices.”
“But of course,” said Sal. “Our research shows that single slices are most often bought by on-the-go individuals, such as yourself. And we know from our expertise with pizza ingredients that pepperoni, while delicious, tends to drip grease once cooked. This drippage causes inconvenience to on-the-go customers, so we opt to remove it.”
“But I want the pepperoni to be on my pepperoni slice.”
“Further,” Sal continued, “most on-the-go customers are professionals, and professionals don’t want grease stains on their classy business suits and dresses. And so, again, we remove the pepperoni from single slices. Very convenient.”
Sal smiled, waiting for the traveler to take the slice and depart, free from the dangers of greasy hands and clothing stains.
“Ok, so how could I get the pepperoni that I want?”
“Easy. Buy a whole pie.”
“But I don’t want a whole pie. That is too much to eat.”
[Editor’s note: I would eat a whole pizza—no problem. Happy birthday to me.]
Sal sighed deeply. He came around the counter to clear up a recently vacated table. “I hear you. But I’ve been in the pizza business a long time and I know that when people want pepperoni, they want it sitting down to avoid the grease. And if you’re sitting down, you’re not on-the-go. What’s more, statistics show that an overwhelming number of Americans hate sitting down to eat alone. Therefore, if you are sitting down to eat (in America), you’re not alone. And if you are not alone, you need more than a single slice to feed everyone. And no one buys half a pie. Incrementally speaking, it’s either one slice or the whole thing. You see?”
If this were a television or cinema scene, the traveler would dart eyes at the camera briefly, shooting the assumed audience a pleading look of help-me-this-man-is-crazy. But there was no camera; this was just the reality the traveler was in. And so, that left but one option.
Slowly, the traveler crossed the room to the freshly cleaned red-and-white checked table where Sal stood. The traveler took a seat and, looking to Sal, said, “One pepperoni pie, please.”
Sal nodded, bringing over silverware and napkins, a set for each of the four chairs at the table. “Sure thing—anything to drink? Pitchers of soda are on special today.”
The moral of our story: a UX persona, while logical, might yet still be wrong. But what’s more, your research might lead to incorrect conclusions, so be flexible. Remain open. Rather than choose what web visitors—depending on their access point—likely want, find ways to offer consistent content across all media without under- (or over-)providing.
When you hide a site feature or content on mobile devices, you leave some segment of your visitors high and dry. If it’s worth saying (or building), it’s worth not hiding.
Also, the traveler WAS A WOMAN, you tech-industry bro-grammer. Surprise!