Web Journeys of Discovery

Brought to you by linear user flow

We have all seen a timeline. They are generally straight.

Key moments are captured over one’s journey through life. Life is full of opportunities, but all of life’s opportunities are not available for the duration of our lives.

We choose a path and based on that path, new opportunities present themselves.

Should a website be different?

The web as we know it

The internet is home to everything. We would never dream of not being able to find vast amounts of information on any given topic. However, finding relevant, concise and enlightening information is much trickier. The web (through no fault of its own) has been victim to the self-serving masses, who have been told by a succession of SEO not-so-whizz-kids, that more is more.

The result is websites with huge double navs, Vegas themed side columns, flash ads, sections of call to actions (CTAs), social sharing à la every platform ever made and massive all encompassing footers. Too much noise that’s leaving us feeling confused and lost.

The web as we use it

We consume content at gluttonous rates, with our phones never out of arm’s reach, we thirst for more — more information, more gossip, more insight, more clicks, more dopamine… we’re master skimmers, filtering through gazillions of words and images on a daily basis, in the hopes of finding that valuable tidbit of juicy goodness that will fleetingly quench our cyber addiction.

The revolution has already started

What are your favourite websites? Fire one up right now… can you remember the first time you used it, were you drawn to the nav, or did your path appear in the body of the viewport? Did you notice a menu, or were you enticed by beautiful content, that left you inspired to go deeper?

Large navs with all possible user paths are passé, replaced by the all serving “burger” icon. This allows us to control the flow from the body of the website, as we reveal content at a measured pace, before sending the viewer somewhere else. Although users are now familiar with the burger, it is secondary, and should serve as a shortcut for return visitors — a conduit to the desired area of the site, rather than the focus of the experience. On the other hand the virgin website visit should be a journey of discovery through a body of beautiful content.

A journey is linear by nature — one experience follows another, is made richer by what came before and has an impact on what follows.

The task set before us (the designers)

The onus is on us to design user journeys that keep our audience hooked — their desired course appearing front and centre, rather than tucked away in a cluttered nav. Simplicity is king and information should be concise with a clear path for our new, unique users. Deliver clarity in information, focus on the important things so that there is a natural hierarchy at play… which, ultimately, builds to a crescendo at your primary CTA.

Linear yes, but not singular

We’re not suggesting that one journey is optimal for every visitor — we can still design for multiple paths. We just need to create forks in the road that allow the user to continue their journey on their desired path.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

We don’t rely on multitudes of distracting bells and whistles to maintain our visitor’s attention. Rather, we provide an oasis of clarity, where precious gems are easily found. If we get it right, the experience becomes enlightening and even enjoyable.

…and us (the users)

The next time you travel through a website, take time to consider the journey. Does it build in richness? Do appropriate experiences follow one after the other…

From theory to practice

Take this new perspective and apply it to your own (or favourite) website. A well-designed site should unfold naturally. Each move is instinctive. Do you stumble or hit a wall? Soar through with ease? Most importantly, what can be done to improve your (audience’s) journey?

Originally published at skyrocket.is on March 31, 2015.