How to create clarity and stop overwhelming your users



You go to a shop for the first time.

You’re in a rush to get a specific ingredient so you ask the shop assistant to take you to it.

They start taking you to the aisle but on the way they point out the other things they have there. “Have you considered this?” “Just so you know, we also have that.” “This thing lives over here.”

You say you’re not interested, you just need your ingredient.

You eventually get to it but then they start showing you all the other things on the shelves as well.

Annoying right?

However it’s still what many ecommerce websites do to their users. Companies seem to think that they should be giving their users all the options at all times.

If a page is converting well then it becomes justification to put other products on there to help boost them. If a page is doing badly then companies can think they need to add more options to solve the problem.

Almost always, the more complexity or extra info you add to the page, the less effective it will be. We’ve known for a while that users don’t like thinking.

Get in the flow

If you’re carrying out a good design process then you should have considered the user flow of your website. Hopefully you’ve even designed it. What are the steps that a user needs to do to complete their task?

If so each page in that flow should have a clear purpose. It should be to get the user to the next step and closer to your overall goal. In retail terms that means making sales, and the funnel to get there is well understood.

This applies to more than ecommerce of course. The purpose and success metric of any page or flow should be aligned so we can measure whether they are doing their job.

Down to page level

If you know the purpose then you should be able to reflect that in the design of your website. The primary action on each page should be one to move to the next step in the flow. Everything else should be clearly secondary.

Wireframes of web pages with clear purpose

Should your homepage offer users links to every product you sell? Ideally not, as its role is to introduce the brand, with an obvious single action to carry out a search.

Should you be showering visitors to product pages with links to articles and videos? In doing so you’re likely to drown out that key action of buying.

Keep it clear and follow the rule of one page, one purpose.

It’s a simple idea but one easily forgotten in the battles between different company departments to improve websites and apps. It’s often easy to fall into the trap of adding more features.

It's much harder to strip back to a core purpose—but your users will thank you for it.

Last updated on 16 August 2017

web design / ux / usability / data-driven / metrics /

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