UX mistakes I have made #2: Segmenting by audience not by goal

A series of blog posts about common User Experience and IA mistakes. I have at some point made all of these blunders and later regretted each and every one.

I know, we need to ask users what type of user they are and then offering content focused on them.

This is how it starts. Seems like a logical idea?

We know from user research that users come to the website with a goal. I’ve seen this time and again in the more than 200 interviews I’ve conducted over the last 15 years.

When users are are asked to self select what user type they are they are reluctant to, or sometimes can’t answer. Worse, they may select a different user type as they wonder if they are getting a different experience or set of pricing.

Some examples

A good example are mobile phone cell networks.

Here O2 asks users to say if they were a personal or business. Users thought, “if I select business they are going to charge me more” so didn’t.

The network may think there is no demand for business mobile deals, when in fact there is, it was just that many small businesses were using personal plans because they thought they would be cheaper (I have seen this behaviour on another mobile phone network).

Heart internet (they are nice folks BTW!) do the same. A web designer may assume they will be charged more than a blogger. The interface creates more questions than it answers.

Other examples:

  • Investment websites: asking if you are “an Investment Professional”. Users think if they answer no they are some how not getting the best content, or content that is watered down.
  • Car manufactures: asking if you are “a family driver.” Users assume they are getting a big, boring car and won’t self select.

What to do

Focus on user goals. Users will come with an idea in their head about what they want to do. Focus your IA on meeting user goals.

If your user is looking for a mobile plan, create a navigation item call ‘mobile plans’. If they want to buy a phone, create a link to ‘buy a phone’. Introduce the personal and business pricing plans alongside each other so a comparison can be made. If your user is looking for ‘WordPress hosting’ show the different tiers so they can make a comparison, rather than having to select a different user type to see the options.

Jared Spool’s trusty Scent of information (PDF) theory can help frame the journey your user will take to find the content they want. Ensure your navigation and calls to action match the steps your user is expecting to take to get to their goal. Following their nose towards the information they require.

Happy users are users that get to the their goals via clear calls to action. Self-selecting who they are introduces uncertainty and uncertainty means they are a step closer to leaving your site rather than a step closer to their goal.

» In the series: UX mistakes I have made #1: The Resources Section

Also published on Medium.

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