Here we look at the basics of goal-oriented web design and we give an introduction to the vital element of a professional web designer’s role.
All web sites are built in response to many needs
Fundamentally, the web is an information medium. People publish stuff – in any medium – in response to a need for information. Success depends on fulfilling those needs.
Note that information can be ‘hard’, like flight times between London and Boston, or ‘soft’, such as an impression about the quality of a company, product or service.
Your site may have information that people want, you may have information that you want them to have that they don’t necessarily want, or you may want to get information for them. Your site may be a way to pass information between different consumers. (Or all of these things at the same time!)
It’s vitally important to appreciate that all kinds of web sites try to resolve multiple needs. The publisher must have a need which drives them to publish (to earn money, to gather information, to promote a brand). The site’s visitors must have a need (to earn money, to succeed at their work, to be entertained).
Behind all these needs are goals that drive our desires and behaviour. It’s our goals that drive us to use web sites, to buy products and use services.
Pursuit of goals drives all behaviour
People visit web sites because they want to achieve something, a certain state, usually having got something or having done something.
As a commercial web site publisher, your business goals (strategic or tactical objectives) drive everything you do.
It’s your goals that influence whether you, as a web user, click on a particular link or take the time to look around a web page.
No-one goes on shopping sites for the fun of using the site’s interface. We do it to find bargains or to buy specific products. Those finds help us to feel a certain way (smart, fashionable, relaxed, excited). The site is simply a means to an end.
Case study: booking train tickets
There are lots of web sites that let me order train tickets, but that’s not the goal I seek to reach when I use those sites.
I usually order train tickets late at night for travel the following morning. My goal is to get to sleep as quickly as possible relaxed in the knowledge that my ticket will be ready for me when I get to the station the next day, and I’ll achieve that goal by ordering my train tickets quickly and securely, and getting feedback that my order has gone through successfully.
Advertisers have long known that lifestyle choices drive most consumer spending decisions, from clothes to cars to bottled water. That’s why advertising uses images of possible lifestyle states, goals that consumers may access through buying.
Goal-oriented design is the process of designing specifically and consciously to enable users to achieve their goals.