UX mistakes I have made #4: Confusing Waypoints and Goals

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.

We must put a link to the blog in the navigation.

Or the dreaded:

We have invested megabucks in a TV advert, it must be on the homepage at the top.

Both these scenarios will send shudders down the spine of a seasoned Information Architect.

The motorway services / truck stop are not the vacation

When we go on holiday we go to the beach, to see relatives or to the country. We don’t go to the motorway services, it’s an essential stop on the way to get fuel and go to the toilet, but it’s not the final destination.

A YouTube video, a tweet to a blog post, a TV advert are all stops on the way to the final goal. They are not destinations in themselves.

User waypoints versus user goals

Users have a limited amount of mental energy / time to spend on your site. What do you want them to do when they have finished reading a blog post? If your an ecommerce website you want them to buy something, if you are a start-up you want them to sign up. There will almost certainly be a business metric you need to focus the design on.

» Read more on Business basics for UX and Design #1: The Business Model

How to design for waypoints and goals

All good user experiences start by understanding your users’ needs & goals and aligning them to your business metrics.

Examples user goals / business metrics:

  • Buying something / Selling things
  • Signing-up to your service / On-boarding users
  • Get in touch to learn more / Get qualified sales leads
  • Get more interesting stuff sent to me / sign up to email newsletter

The above have one thing in common, they drive the bottom line. Typically waypoints do not.

» You can use the Jobs To Be Done framework to define user goals.

Your rightly proud of the great content you’ve produced but it’s this content that brings users to your website, it’s truck stop stuff, essential but not a destination. Waypoints are content users will read along the way to completing a goal. The content that attracts them to you in the first place so that you can meet your business goals.

As designers you have a choice you have to make, after reading that blog post what do you want your users to do next? Bearing in mind that you only have a certain window of time to help your user get to their goal.

Do you want users to view your TV advert or browse the rest blog, or buy something, sign up or some other goal.

That’s why your blog has no reason to be in the navigation and you don’t need your TV advert on the homepage. There will always something more appropriate that can go in the nav or at the top of the homepage.

Outline your goals and use them to define your navigation and calls to action. Don’t let waypoints, however great they are, define your product.

In this series

» UX mistakes I have made #1: The Resources Section
» UX mistakes I have made #2: Segmenting by audience not by goal
» UX mistakes I have made #3: Showing your Organisational Underwear
» UX mistakes I have made #4: Confusing Waypoints and Goals

One Response to “UX mistakes I have made #4: Confusing Waypoints and Goals”

  1. DJ

    Interesting to see JTBD discussed in this context.

    Here’s a challenge I have at the moment: my customers want to buy a bike because they want a fitter lifestyle. When they come to my website is their goal to:
    A. Buy a bike
    B. Book an appointment to try out a series of bikes and get advice on which one is the right one for them

    In thinking about goals I believe you also need to think about how people achieve them and what role any given touch point plays. This wider thinking helps you integrate the role of the web into other things companies do to serve customers.

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