User journeys: How this simple idea can transform the effectiveness of your website.

The internet may be over 25 years old but we’re still in the early stages of understanding how different it is from the media which preceded it. Most websites still don’t recognise that their visitors control their site experience and how few site visitors actually do the thing the site owner wants them to do!

Far too often, websites are created from an ‘inside-out’ perspective. An organisation takes the ways it thinks about itself and builds its website to reflect them. What it actually needs to do is think ‘outside-in’. Why are users coming to your site? What problems are they looking to solve? What do you want them to do?

At the heart of this thinking is the path these high value users will take through your site, known as a user journey.

User journeys should be simple, connecting a site user to a site goal. Your site goals could be buying something, calling you, using a contact form, signing up to a newsletter or downloading some content. The role of a user journey is to map the steps that get the user from their landing page to the goal in as few steps as possible. It should never be more than five!

The key steps are at the beginning, the moments of truth where the content and general site feel have to be right or the visitor will leave. When someone arrives, they’ll make an immediate judgement about whether or not to go further. This judgement will be influenced by a number of factors but there has to be an obvious hook that shows you have some understanding of their needs. Don’t forget about load speeds. As little as 3 seconds is enough to lose some visitors if yours is a B2C site.

Once someone has made the first two steps, they are much more likely to go further and reach the goal but they need ‘hygiene’ factors like clear, simple form-filling, obvious calls to action and reassurance like accreditations or user reviews.

Go through this process for each of your priority audiences, normally no more than 4, and this will help you build an invaluable picture of what content your site needs and how it should be organised. You will find some important content featuring in every user journey. Make sure this is as strong as it can be and uses your keywords.

Initially, some of this will be guesswork but, as so often, Google Analytics will provide with a ton of data to improve your effectiveness. If you’re refining your user journey rather than creating a new site, look at the most popular content on your site now and the main entry and exit pages. Many B2B sites are surprised by how much traffic their ‘Team’ page gets but people like to know the people they’re dealing with.

If you understand GA well, you can use it to monitor your goals and add goal completion to your standard dashboard. I like this as a top line measure but set up your journeys and goals properly, you should be getting much more obvious business benefits, such as more sales, contacts, sign-ups or downloads, and you’ll need better measures than GA. Unfortunately, Google is ‘sunsetting’ GA at the end of June to be replaced by a more complex system called GA4. Expect a ton of simple GA alternatives to appear in the next couple of months!

A website should be part of your tool kit for reaching your business goals, like any other business asset, and fill a demonstrable role in your organisation’s success. Understanding what your priority audiences come for and what you want them to do is fundamental to maximising its effectiveness. Create compelling user journeys and your site will give your visitors what they want. Structure them to deliver the benefits you want too and your site performance will be transformed!

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