Why Every Website Revamp Should Begin with A Journey
Effective websites are like concierges when users have a positive online experience, finding everything easily, quickly, and effortlessly. Visitors leave the website satisfied with many good things to think about. In cases like this, it might even feel as though the website was built to anticipate their questions and provide additional information that wasn’t asked for but needed – very much like the way guests feel when interacting with a great hotel concierge.
When concierges are asked the same sorts of questions frequently enough by similar “types” of people (e.g. business travelers, a family of tourists, honeymooners, etc.) they could almost predict their conversations in advance of having them with a high degree of certainty.
Designing a concierge like website takes a mindful understanding of its visitors and should be addressed at the start of the project. Before discussing the options of available colors, images, fonts, graphics, etc., talk about the customer and learn about their expectations, challenges, and ways they could be better served – which is the purpose of a journey map.
A journey map is a simple framework used to help teams design a positive online experience. Design in this context relates to the architecture and infrastructure of the website in addition to its artistic appeal.
The intent of the journey map is to chart out activities that typically occur prior, during and after a potential customer visits a website. Collectively these insights help designers consider different ways of helping visitors complete tasks needed to achieve their goals. By mentally becoming a potential buyer and playing out scenarios by defining the specific problem a visitor is trying to address, the questions they might have and the information they need, designers could conceive a logical and intuitive path based on a segment audience’s mindset. The journey maps that make the greatest impact are those co-created with potential or past customers, or with someone at the company that interfaces regularly with customers (e.g. customer care, sales, account management, etc.).
Gathering the needed information to put together a journey begins with asking several questions.
- WHO IS YOUR BEST CUSTOMER? Be very clear in describing the target segment (small or large insurance company); role/responsibility/function (purchasing department or secretary); understanding of your service (not familiar, very familiar); how was your website found (referred by doctor, hospital, pharmacy, google search, etc.); what problem are visitors trying to solve/ what are their pain points (why were they looking for your website); decision process (are they the decision maker, influencer, etc.); decision criteria (is your company being evaluated by any common criteria)?
- WHO ARE YOU? What do you sell? How are you different? Why should you be trusted?
- HOW CAN YOU HELP? What is your value proposition (not what you sell but what customer’s buy), the benefits and advantages you offer, the types of problems you solve? Will you save customers time, money, frustration; improve their lives; do things faster, more accurately, etc.?
- WHAT DO VISITORS NEED TO KNOW? What questions do visitors need answered when first meeting you? How would they know if they qualify or are a good fit for your service?
- WHAT IS THEIR FIRST STEP? Is it to sell a product or service on the spot, accelerate the sales process, facilitate a first step? What would you like visitors to do on your site? What is the bare minimum, first step and ideal action you would like every visitor to take before leaving your website? If they don’t call or email you, what half-step could they take to engage but not commit to contacting you (e.g. download a checklist, case studies, etc.)?
- WHO ELSE? Before your company existed, how else would a customer’s problem be addressed? Who else would they have considered a solution to their problems? (Alternative solutions may or may not be in the same category, so be realistic and think broadly).
- NOW WHAT? After a visitor leaves your site, what is supposed to happen? What should visitors expect from you and what do you expect from them?
- THEN WHAT? Play out what happens offline. Do visitors then need to contact another party to make things happen? Do they need to collaborate with anyone else to make a buying decision?
While you may not know all the answers, and many questions have more than one answer, the specifics are not as important as having an overall sense of your target audience. This insight will help make informed choices regarding the selection of images, graphics, video, content, and every element on the website. The key is drawing conclusions from a visitor’s point of view.
Once answers to the questions above are gathered, it is important to map out a potential visitor’s decision-making journey within the context of a defined scenario. If there is more than one scenario, then play out each one. However, try to consolidate them to three, but no more than five situations.
Without a journey map and an understanding of a potential customer’s world before, during and after their visit, the website design process becomes a rudderless exercise without an intended destination. It becomes more of a subjective balancing act between what looks good to a graphic designer, and what the client likes, instead of a deliberate attempt to help convert interested prospects into paying customers. The usual outcome is a marginal website that satisfies neither party, or the end user. Creating a journey map does take time and effort but it is worth the investment and should be completed before any meaningful decisions about the website’s requirements are made.