What a fenceless gate means for website design

What good is a gate without a fence? That’s what I was thinking when I took a snap of a neighbour’s front yard, expecting to use it as a metaphor for placing unnecessary barriers between you and your customer. To a degree that’s right – we need to be careful about making things harder than they need to be.

bri williams

But then I thought about it more broadly.

Perhaps the role of the gate is to signal a path? To communicate to the visitor that this is the place to start? 

Creating a pathway

As you probably know by now, I review a LOT of websites to help businesses understand why they are not converting like they should. One of the common reasons is the lack of a defined pathway for the customer to follow.

In fact, creating a pathway is the third of my five essentials for a behaviourally effective website. It means taking your customer step by step through your website in a way that builds their confidence and motivation to take the desired action (typically to contact you or make a purchase).

A pathway starts on the first page your customer lands on. That could be a landing page, but more commonly, your home page. Looking at yours, ask yourself, am I giving my customer a clear path to follow? Is there a clear primary call to action (CTA) on this page, positioned in prime real estate above the fold (i.e. in the top of the page before they have to scroll down)?

Just like the gate without a fence, have you made it clear to your customer that this is where they should begin?

From there the pathway should be a cascade of relevant information that builds your case. Think of it like a funnel. 

The funnel approach to pathway design

bri williams

Stage one of your funnel is welcoming your visitor and making them feel like it’s worth sticking around. At this stage they will be curious, slightly disoriented and have their guard up. Don’t blow it by talking about yourself too much because that will shut their interest down. Your site needs to be centred around them.

Stage two is convincing them that you might have a solution for their problem (your value proposition), and engaging them to explore further. By this stage you have passed the gut reaction test and now need to lead them through the site. Escalating commitment prematurely or having a site that is difficult to navigate will ruin your chances.

The blue squiggly line in the diagram signifies how sophisticated your pathway needs to be. An online perfume retailer, for example, can afford to have a straightforward pathway where price and “buy now” are communicated early on. A consulting business (like mine) will more likely need to do more convincing and give some time or ideas away for free before expecting to secure a sale.

Stage three is the pointy end, when the hard work is done and you (hopefully) get them to take action. Labour intensive contact forms, clunky shopping carts and payment screens without assurances will foil your conversion at this point. 

It’s more than just websites

Creating pathways is not only relevant for websites. The same goes for shop and office layouts. If you’ve ever struggled to find the fitting rooms or cash registers in a retail environment you will know the importance of product placement, signage, cues and directions.

Some large retailers I’ve reviewed have compromised their chances of conversion by forgetting to place baskets around the store and overlooking the need for privacy when purchasing health-related products.

The key takeaway from creating a pathway is a simple one: think about what you do from your customer’s perspective, and map your environment to get them from the front gate to the final destination.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues.


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5 years ago

Thanks for your write good article

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