Today I’ve been reviewing the website of a large IT-for-schools company. This began with the usual first step: creating an entirely hypothetical “persona”, jumping into their skin and experiencing the user journey from that visitor’s eyes, through the website.

I haven’t done many of these journeys, but each time I do, I stumble across the same problems: too much information and too many options.

What is a User Persona?

Understanding who your target customer actually is, and then seeing your website through their eyes, is key to getting your site right, both from a navigational and informational point-of-view.

Today, for example, I transformed myself into Sophie, a Geography teacher, Googling like mad to find a way to improve IT in the classroom. The homepage I landed on was crowded with content, navigational options and calls-to-action, with no clear signalling as to where to go next.

Well, by the end of break time I was head-in-hands, confused and overloaded with information, options, pathways. The journey was just too complicated!

“Cognitive Load”

Misunderstanding the user’s “cognitive load” (a phrase marketers like UX Magazine have stolen from psychologists) is an understandable yet fatal mistake by enthusiastic businesses who have taken to the internet.

Taking my hypothetical Sophie as an example, here are 4 questions worth asking yourself to begin with:

  1. How many steps must Sophie take between reaching your website and purchasing a product?
  2. How long is each step?
  3. How many choices must she make?
  4. How hard are theses choices to make?

The easier and quicker the process for Sophie (ie the smaller the cognitive load), the more likely she will turn into a customer, and perhaps even return!

So, How You Can Improve Your Customer Journey?

Think about the visitor’s needs

For Sophie, who’s in a hurry and at the start of her research, she just needed a few key pieces of information. Later on in her journey, perhaps in another visit, she might need more.

Big juicy calls-to action cannot be underestimated

Don’t send your customers down rabbit holes or leave them stuck on one page. Make it easy for them to sign up to your newsletter, a free trial or, most importantly, to make a purchase.

Make navigation easy

Our experience is that navigations with more than 5 tabs are hard to read. If you need to, you could split your navigation into 2 separate lists, but avoid a long row of very similar-sounding tabs across your website.

Your website is your chance to draw in visitors and to turn them into customers, clients and friends. Try and see it through their eyes so you can make the best of it!