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Controlling the User Journey

If you were a child who learnt to read anytime from about 1975 onwards, then like me, you were probably unable to avoid the ‘Choose your own adventure’ book phenomenon.

Stephen R 27 January 2015

Rather than following a linear progression from page 1 to page 342, these books provided decision points that would send the reader all over the place from page 5 to page 84 and then back to page 61.

There were times when I was just not that impressed with my final outcome in a story and so I’d keep trying over and over with different decisions in pursuit of an altered destiny. Despite my best efforts, all of these attempts seemed inevitably to lead time and again to my unfortunate descent from the edge of a cliff or the temporary satisfaction of a vampire’s insatiable thirst. These books were somehow cleverly programmed so that regardless of which next steps I chose, I always ended up where the author wanted me to go.

Most websites have a small number of key outcomes that they are striving to achieve. These are usually calls-to-action, such as buying a product, subscribing to the newsletter or contacting the business directly with an enquiry. For all of the whiz-bangery and doo-gidgets on a website, as a website owner, all we ever really want is for the user to end up at that final pre-determined step.

Visitors to your website typically do not want a prescription about how they should use and navigate your collection of pages. I personally feel that if a website only provides me very limited lateral movement and tells me that I have to follow the rules then I’m most likely to turn it off and watch a Game of Thrones instead.

However, people can be manipulated. This is where a lesson can be learned from Choose your own Adventure books. Just as a Choose your own Adventure always led me to a horrific death, your website can lead a user to completing your desired goals. Without forcing someone into a linear pathway you can still strongly influence where they are heading through clever use of visual cues and persuasive content.

Next time you’re visiting a website and find yourself signing up for a newsletter or even buying a fluffy case for your iFone 7, think about the pages you turned to arrive at this ending and how you can write a similar story for your prospects.

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