Creating a website structure and defining successful user journeys is an ongoing activity. It is a continually developing process as new technology changes and customer habits, expectations and norms evolve. For example, the variety of websites in the car insurance industry illustrates how each organization arranges their website and user journeys differently.
The first place to start is to identify your top tasks, then create an Information Architecture before defining user journeys.
Identify Top Tasks
Customers will come to your website to perform a handful of "top tasks." While you may have hundreds of pages of content, most visitors are after a few specific bits of information or to perform a specific activity. Top tasks will vary for different industry segments and depends on who the target audience is, but could include:
- Get a quote from an insurer
- Find a course at a university
- Donate to a charity
- Buy something from a retailer
- Pay a bill at a utility or government agency
- Book an appointment or just ask a question
Website top tasks example:
It is important to identify these and concentrate your energy on creating excellent content and processes so that customers can come to your site, perform their task and leave. Once you have this understanding you can start to construct your Information Architecture (IA).
Constructing Your IA
Your IA will need to be as engaging as possible and not prescribed by industry buzzwords and jargon.
A good starting point is to run a card sort exercise. This will allow your customers to tell you how they would like your web content and top tasks organized on a website. The results can then be analyzed to determine the optimum IA structure.
Card sorts work by users viewing the top tasks and main content page titles, un-ordered. The users are then asked to group them to create different levels of navigation. The ordering that is the most popular should then be recreated on the website.
Defining User Journeys
In conjunction with your IA, you should pre-define the journeys that you think are the optimum route to your conversion pages. These should be short and simple. A funnel approach, using your website stats, is often used to measure user journeys on live sites, but when you are planning a new site, offline analysis will be needed. You can test offline proposed user journeys by developing several alternatives and then testing them on real users. This should be done scientifically and methodically. While it is unlikely that what you develop will be the finished item, it should be very close. The finished item is developed once your website is live and actual usage can be examined and used to refine journey and conversion rates.
Funnel analysis example:
This is a continuous process that starts with monitoring and in-depth analysis to gain insight into what users are doing on your website. Typically you should concentrate on areas of the site that bring the most revenue, cause the most complaints or where there are a large number of drop-outs.
Tools like Google Analytics can be configured to give you the basic data needed to understand user journeys and funnels (how users move through a pre-defined process to complete a task). With this information, website managers can continually refine and hone their content presentation and service delivery to get the optimum conversions. Use multivariate testing to identify optimum layouts by dynamically presenting users with different versions of a page. The resultant behaviors are subjected to statistical analyses to determine which is the best version of the page to adopt. This is not a one-off process, but a continually evolving and iterative one where alternative variants are tested regularly post launch.
By identifying your customer’s top tasks, you will be able to build a robust Information Architecture that supports your pre-defined user journeys. On your live site you will be able to test and hone these journeys with multi-variate testing and analytics insight.
Editor's Note: You may also enjoy reading:
- Customer Experience: Where Content, Commerce & Community Collide
- 3 Ways to Use Content to Improve the Online Customer Experience
- 6 Steps for Building a Successful Customer Experience Model
About the Author
Rob McCarthy is CEO and a founding partner of GOSS Interactive, a digital agency that specializes in delivering online efficiency through website engagement and optimization, hosting and with a leading Web Content Management system GOSS iCM. As well as overseeing the day-to-day running of the business, McCarthy provides digital thought leadership, ensuring that the business develops technical innovations to suit client needs and deliver them a strong ROI.