Ideally, your website will be the exact opposite of trying to play Solitaire. Visitors don’t want to try to guess or pre-plan their next move in order to finish the game (er, complete their task). They want a path that’s so easy to follow, they don’t even have to think about what to do next.
Ever play Addiction Solitaire? I was introduced to the game last week and since have become, well, addicted. For those who have not played, all the cards in a deck are shuffled and laid out—face up—in 4 rows of 13 cards each. The Aces are then removed, leaving 4 playable “holes” on the board. The object is to organize all the cards from 2 to King by suit in each of the 4 rows. Sounds easy enough, right?
Wrong. Solitaire is a game based on decisions. Many times, you’ll find yourself facing one that determines whether or not you’ll be able to complete the game successfully. Without a solid game plan and some serious forethought before each move, you can very easily find yourself stuck with no moves to get to where you want to be.
In other words the path to success isn’t always clear when you’re in the thick of the game.
What does Solitaire have to do with websites?
There was a movement a few years ago when websites were intentionally exploratory. Website owners wanted visitors to click around, trying to find as much as they could before getting to the end. Navigation wasn’t clearly labeled. Pages felt more like teaser trailers than articles filled with information.
Many website owners thought this would make their website fun, engaging and memorable.
Many visitors found this frustrating as hell. After all, trying to find your dentist’s phone number is not—and never will be—comparable to playing a game.
Spoiler alert: There’s nothing a website can do to change that.
While we would all love a visitor to spend hours upon hours on our sites, absorbing as much as they can about our carefully crafted words and ideas, the truth of the matter is that visitors are on our sites to accomplish a task. Knowing that, we can create the game plan for them so their path to success will be clear.
Website goals keep everyone’s eyes on the prize.
When sitting down to talk with us about your website, we’ll ask the question: “What do you want visitors to do on your site? What is the ultimate goal?”
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer as a website owner. Most times, the answer that initially comes back to us is either, “call us” or “learn more about us.” Those get the ball rolling, but they are vague.
Website goals work best when they are specific. Especially when being any more specific would make it too obvious.
The key with goals, like most things when it comes to your website, is to be as specific as possible. Why do you want visitors to call you? What do you want them to know? What do you want them to do with the information once they have it?
The answers to these questions may seem stupidly obvious when we start asking them. It might even feel weird having to say them out loud. And that’s perfect. Getting that specific with your website goals pave the way for the design decisions we’ll make later in the creative process.
What sort of decisions would declaring goals affect? Here’s a short list to give you an idea:
- Page layout/prioritizing content:
- What information should be seen first when a visitor arrives on a page?
- What best supplements or adds to that message?
- What can stand in the background?
- What (if anything) might be best left off the site completely?
- Calls to action:
- What is the most appropriate wording and look for our main goal?
- What other actions do we want visitors to take?
- Wording and vocabulary:
- How should pages be written to keep visitors going?
- Where can calls to action be placed directly in the content?
- What labels should the main navigation have?
- Color palette and imagery:
- What mood should visitors be in to complete our goal?
- What visual references to the goal can be made?
- What visual references to life with/without the goal can be made?
Our mission is to make what is painfully obvious to you equally obvious to your site visitors.
Not only that, but all those decisions are now measurable going forward.
Your website investment can be tracked. Your site maintenance will be based on actual user statistics. If goals are not coming through as expected, you’ll be able to see where along the way visitors are getting lost.
In short, declaring website goals makes the path to success obvious to both you, the website owner, and your visitors.
And, let’s be honest: Solitaire—and website ownership—is way more fun when you know you’ve got the game in the bag.