The web is a non-linear experience.
Have you ever received directions to someone's house that were impossible to follow? Perhaps they didn't know you were coming from the other side of town, or you came at night, or in a rainstorm. Perhaps the landmarks they suggested along the way weren't obvious. You may have ultimately arrived at their house, but it was a frustrating experience.
On the web, the same thing happens. Many businesses expect their customers to come into their website from a certain specific place, and progress through the site in the same way every time. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Users access web and mobile applications in all kinds of environments, on all kinds of browsers, with all kinds of browsing habits, and they seldom enter, exit, or follow the same path consistently. The more complicated the application, the wider the degree of difference from one user's experience to the next.
But it gets worse. You may have been committed to finding that house, but many web users aren't committed at all to the website they're using. If it's a frustrating experience, they're likely to leave the site and find what they're seeking elsewhere. If you're in charge of building a website, you can't afford to take your users' experiences lightly.
The solution to this potential problem comes in 3 parts.
Before you can offer your users directions, you need to know where to send them. Define your primary action items and prioritize how you want users to engage the site. Will your system have e-commerce or a portal? What are the top things you need your website to do for your organization and your users?
Once you know what your users will do on your site, you need to make it easy for them to get around. Make primary action items easily and appropriately visible, and keep your navigation consistent and clear. Don't rely on your users to be extremely savvy or to remember how to do specific things from their previous visit, particularly if they aren't on your site regularly.
In order to understand your users' experiences, you must try to put yourself in their shoes. Consider their likely motivations for visiting the site, and make those things most obvious. Think about what environment they're likely to be using your website in, and design the site so they can navigate easily with the appropriate level of attention. Remember that your users are just as busy as you are, and help them make the best use of their time.
Give your users good directions, or you may be sending them on their way.
Dialogs understands that there are always multiple ways to get somewhere. We've been driving websites since 1995. Call us for directions.