Oh S$^%, My Site Was Supposed to be Intuitive
When you start a project, it helps to know why you are doing it and what you want to achieve with it.
Do you ever struggle with this clarifying process?
I know I do. It's just so easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of the big picture. So, it helps me to think about what I want to achieve with the project.
In his book, Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity, David Allen calls this the clarifying process and outlines it with two questions:
1. “‘Why are we doing this?"
2. "What will it look like when it’s done successfully?’”(273).
Thus, I decided to start this blog with a statement about what I want to achieve:
I would like the reader (you) to start thinking about how you can optimize where and how you share your message on your website.
Let’s start by outlining the process...
The Process: Mapping Your Message to the User Journey
1. Start by clarifying who you are and what your message is. I covered this in a blog post I shared on Linkedin.
2. Next, get to know who your audience is by conducting user interviews and surveys. For tips on how to do this, check out my blog post "Introduction to Buyer Personas."
Other great resources to help you with this are:
- “A Few Good Online Survey Tools for Your Nonprofit” on TechSoup, which outlines different tools you can use to survey your stakeholders and how to use them effectively.
- “3 Free Tools to Understand Your Audience and Quickly Grow Sales” by Larry Kim on Inc.com, which touches on how you can use Google Analytics, Facebook Audience Insights, and Twitter Audience Insights to help you learn more about your target audience.
3. Map out the user’s journey (pathway) on your website. I'll be sharing a blog that discusses this specifically in the coming weeks, so shoot me an email if you'd like to be notified of it.
Connect your message with what your user is looking for at each step of their journey
4. Connect Buyer Insights with the more traditional marketing funnel. Make a list of the wording your target audience used for each stage.
5. Now, link the notes you made in the previous step with each stage of the path you would like the user to take on the website.
Test and Refine
6. Use Google Analytics to identify where users are leaving your website. Once you identify points that are lacking, test changes to see what improves the loss rate.
7. Request feedback from your users via surveys or test groups.
8. Listen to what your target audience is saying online, in your offices, and on the phone. I read in one article, that I can't for the life of me find, that if you keep getting phone calls looking for information, you know you have online, it’s probably on the wrong spot on the user journey. To solve this have whoever is answering the phone ask the caller where they were when they realized they needed this information and then put the information there. If you get fewer calls looking for that information, but more users completing the desired action, then you know the change worked. If not, try a different tweak.
Breaking Down the Middle: #s 4 and 5
#4 - Connect Buyer Insights with the Traditional Marketing Funnel
Connect the Buyer Insights we identified by conducting user interviews with the more traditional marketing funnel defined by digital marketing strategist Samuel Edwards:
The Discovery stage: For Edwards, this is the point in time when members of your target market realize they have a problem or lack that they wish to solve. In our Buyer/User Personas we call this the Priority Initiative.
The Consideration stage: For Edwards, this is the point in time when a member of your target audience “explores different solutions and hones in on the one that they feel best solves their pain point.” Here, we would look at the success factors identified by our user interview.
The Decision stage: For Edwards, this is the point in time when a member of your target audience “examines the solution they’ve identified and tries to justify a purchase decision. If all goes well, they end up making the selection. If they decide the solution isn’t right for them, they revert back to the consideration stage to look at alternatives.” Here we would look out the perceived barriers and decision criteria identified by our user interviews.
#5 - Link the pathways you want the user to take on your website with the user journey
I think I may have made the whole user pathway, user journey thing complicated. While the two terms are used interchangeably (ARGH!) sometimes, I tend to think of them a little bit differently.
The user pathway is the path your user takes on your website. The user journey is the journey your target audience goes on when they realize they need a solution or opportunity like the one you provide.
Ok, now that I’ve cleared that up, we can continue.
Become the Persona. When you start this step, put on your persona hat. You are the persona. Got it? Are you in character? Excellent.
Now, as yourself these two questions:
1. What are you looking for and why are you looking for it?
2. You’ve come to the website, where did you come from (social media, a blog post, a direct link to the homepage?) and why? ← This will tell you what stage of the funnel your in and guide the type of content that will need to appear on your landing pages.
For example ...
The Inspired Video Watcher
If you just watched a video that inspired you and made you realize there was something missing in your life, your priority initiative was just triggered. You’re entering the website from the Discovery phase and are moving into the consideration stage. (In most cases, by the time people get to your website, they have moved beyond the discovery stage.)
- Once on the website, you (as the user) would most likely like to see content that shows you how to solve their problem and take advantage of the opportunity for growth/fulfillment you were alerted to.
- Edwards suggests that at this point you (as the content maker) would like to “help the [user] identify specific needs for solving the problem they identified in the discovery stage” and to “align that solution with specific [...] needs the individual [...] faces.
- Here you (as the content maker) would be thinking about showing content like blogs and case studies - these can be in written, audio, or video form, or a combination of all three, depending on how your target audience likes to consume their content. In other words, you are looking at presenting content that addresses a challenge your audience is facing in a way they recognize and illustrate how it could be solved and overcome.
- The trick is to go back to your user interviews and to use the language and descriptions used by your target audience to describe the challenge and the solution.
- Remember, to successfully communicate with your target audience, you must use a language, style, and tone that they relate to.
The Google Searcher
If you had typed a question into google (i.e. Best Nonprofit organizations for community involvement), you probably have some very specific questions and are looking for a more specific solution. You are either in the decision stage or in the consideration stage moving into the decision stage.
- Here you are focused less on success factors than you were in the previous example, and more on decision factors and perceived barriers.
- Again, you will wish to use language and wording that speaks to your audience. Language and wording that you identified when you did your user interviews and narrowed in on your organization’s story.
- Finally, look at the questions your users have asked, and brainstorm additional questions that could be asked. Order them in the way they are usually asked. Now go back to where you started on the site. Once your first need (that which brought you to the site is addressed), what question will you ask next? That content will need to be readily accessible from your starting point.
The Caveat - This is not just about content. It is also about design. However, content is a good place to start.
We’re all for looking for a website that is intuitive, easy-to-use, and/or simple to navigate.
Ironically, what feels simple, is rarely simple. And what may feel simple and intuitive to you or me, may not feel simple or intuitive to your target audience, or, say, Aunt Tilly from down the street. ...unless, of course, we all think and process things the same way, in which case, things are probably pretty drab.
In the web world, all three phrases mean more-or-less the same thing. They mean that the user wants to feel like the information they would like, will appear in front of them, when it occurs to them that they need it.
The trick to achieving this magical website is to follow the steps we discussed above:
1. Know your audience! I mean really know them - almost, but not really, to the point of creepiness.
2. Know your story. If there was ever a time to get to know yourself, this is it.
3. Map out the pathway you would like your audience to take on the website.
4. Plot out your messaging based on the questions your audience will have at each stage of their trip through the website.
5. Test and refine it.
...and, that's it, you're left with a website that your target audience finds intuitive and easy-to-use.
I hope you found that helpful, and, as always, if you have any questions, concerns, or feedback, please let me know in the comments below.
Talk to you soon,
PS - If your website makes you want to pull out your hair and throw monkey crap around the office, you might need a little help. No, there's nothing wrong with you. The reaction, I just described is completely rational if your website is a mess, you don't know what works and what doesn't, and you have absolutely no idea how to fix it. But it doesn't need to be this way. The technical and analyst gorillas have a solution for you. No, it is not throwing your computer out the window. To find out more, visit our $499 Website Audit page.