Designing for Intention
In today’s business world having a website is practically equivalent to being in business. There is no question in regards to IF your business should have a website. There is, however, still very much a question in regards to how best to structure and position that website and the information it contains for maximum business and customer benefit.
As an Information Architect, it is my job to help businesses understand purpose. More importantly, it is my job to help others understand how to structure specific information on their websites (and apps, and anything else that has information that needs to be communicated) to meet that purpose.
Recently, we have developed some interesting viewpoints in this endeavor. Before I share those with you, it is important to understand what I mean by the term “structuring a website.” It is also important to understand a bit more about how and why websites are structured today.
Back when the web was first born, there was no rhyme or reason to what information was strewed across it. As more and more information was put on the web (NOTE: By the word “information” I mean content, videos, images… anything.), it became harder for people to find their way around. People not finding their way around meant that they weren’t able to connect with businesses in the ways they needed to become customers, let alone loyal customers. This not only frustrated users, but it was also not so good for business.
This issue birthed the field of Information Architecture. Started in large part by those who studied and worked in Library Sciences, Information Architecture was created in order to help organize all the information that was floating about on the Internet. Since then, Information Architects have been helping businesses figure out which information needs to go where on their websites. They have also been helping to organize and structure said information into nice, neat taxonomies. These taxonomies work to catalog each piece of a company’s information so it can easily be found on the web.
You may have worked with one of these people before, and evidence of their hard work is everywhere. One of the most popular examples, as of late, is the mega menu. Here are some screenshots of the mega menu in use:
These menus are organized to give each piece of a company’s information a “home” in the hopes that customers will seek out and find what they need.
There’s just one problem with these sites, and most other sites regardless if they have a mega menu.
These structures don’t allow the sites to be optimized for their necessary purpose. Instead of helping customers to meet their goals, the structure of the website is actually creating more noise for customers to sift through, which is bad for the bottom line because customers aren’t able to find the information they need in order to complete the transaction.
This brings us back to the customer’s intention.
Focusing on customer intention starts with considering what customers intend to accomplish interacting with a website. Instead of doing things the old way, i.e. designing a site by starting with all the information a company wants to put on their website and organizing a structure around it, we first think about the customer’s intent.
With these intentions in mind, we can then sort through all of the information the company has that can fulfill those intentions. This is ultimately the totality of the information that will live on the website. Being sure to leave out any extraneous company information that simply adds noise to the equation. Because, after-all, the last thing a customer needs in today’s world is MORE information thrown at them.
Structuring for intention is one of the very first steps needed in order to aim your website toward cultivating customer loyalty. The above looks to provide the basic outline of a much grander idea. There is a lot more to the process to share, and you can be sure that I will be doing so soon.
But for now, it’s important for us all to realize that the old way of thinking about what information goes on our websites and how that information is organized no longer works. Yes indeed, it’s time for a change.