Behaviourally effective websites, part 3: Creating a pathway

The hard part is over … kind of.

You’ve successfully used those precious seconds from the time someone lands on your site to Establish Confidence and Communicate Your Value. That means they are interested enough to stick around. So now that you have them, what are you going to do with them? Part 3 of building a behaviourally effective website is Creating a Pathway, so let’s look at how.

Stop touting at me

Click here! No, click here! Over here, buy now! Ignore them, click here!

If most websites could talk it would sound a bit like walking down Lygon Street in Melbourne, where all the restaurateurs tout for your custom by waving their arms and yelling out their specials.

In website-land the equivalent is creating multiple competing pathways for your visitor to take and making them choose. Homepages with 4, 6, 16 different Calls to Action (CTAs), social media buttons taking prime real-estate ‘above the fold’ and shopping-cart pages that distract the customer with newsletter sign-ups right at the point they should be focused on completing the payment are all symptoms of your website’s pathway being broken. And when it’s broken you are leaking money.

Pathway to purchase

No doubt you’ve heard of path to purchase – the steps people take from researching their needs to finally buying the product/service. The trick is that knowing about the pathway is one thing, designing one for your business, and more specifically your website, is another.

For every point at which you are asking your visitor to take an action (read more, click here, subscribe, download, buy), you must have already answered:

  • Where is this leading for the visitor, and
  • Where is this leading for you?

Creating a pathway for the visitor

For the visitor, the experience on your site needs to follow a logical progression. Don’t ask me to buy from you before you’ve introduced yourself (Established Confidence), convinced me that you know about my problem (Communicated Value), and provided the information I need at the level and sequence that makes sense for me (Creating a Pathway).

Likewise when I’m at the checkout ready to buy, don’t tell me about irrelevant services or worse, make it difficult to pay (e.g. insist on registering rather than allow me to buy as a guest).

Creating a pathway for you

For you, the discipline is in knowing how each touch point with a customer ultimately leads to a sale. If you have a newsletter, what role is it playing in building towards the reader wanting to do business with you? If you want people to leave your site to visit your Facebook page, how will you loop them back to be closer to doing business with you?

I know this all sounds pretty simple, so why are there so many websites that look like the following examples?


Figure 1: Where should I go?


Figure 2: At least sveen competing paths to follow

Why websites fall into these traps

Websites screw up their purchase pathways for two reasons:

  • Greed – trying to sell everything to everyone, and
  • Anxiety – being scared that if you don’t provide everything at once then the visitor will not stick around.

Both these reasons stem from a lack of confidence in your offer. As businesses we get terrified that if we don’t have our phone number on the home page then the person who wants to contact us won’t bother.

Seriously? If you’ve convinced people of your value let me assure you that they will take the time to click on your “Contact Us” tab.

In the meantime, by reducing the amount of content you are asking them to process on the home page (like removing superfluous and distracting CTAs, phone numbers and social media buttons) you are actually able to more clearly and calmly communicate your value. Have the discipline to hold back on anything that does not take you closer to the sale.

There’s plenty more on how to Create a Pathway, including how it differs depending on your type of business in my guide “5 Essentials to an Effective Website” which is available at

If you are interested in who does a pathway well, check out for how to upgrade users from free to paid and and for how to ‘on-board’ customers by taking them through a process of customisation.

Next week, we look at how to ask for action at the right time and in the right way, so stay tuned.

Bri Williams runs People Patterns Pty Ltd, a consultancy specialising in the application of behavioural economics to everyday business issues. Bri is a presenter, consultant and author who you can find out more about at, or by following on Twitter @peoplepatterns.



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