Just reading this fantastic article (link down below) on Boxes and Arrows about thinking about “User Journeys” when developin Web sites, especially at the information architecture stage.
Web people these day of the user more and more about the experience of the user. Web sites are becoming less of an online brochure and more of a completely new way to tell your story to all of the different people that need to know about you.
In my work, I often help my clients build profiles of their target audience, focusing our efforts on developing an understanding of who these people are, why they are coming to your site and how they prefer to “consume” information. These profiles are more about the users of the site as people. Once we have these profiles, we spend time behind the scenes thinking about whether or not we have the right information available to them on the site and think about how best to deliver that information based on “who they are.”
The idea of the “user journey” shifts that focus away from “who they are” and more to “what they need to do” on the site and pays attention to how matching their needs on the site to your needs as a business can help identify opportunities to really strengthen your site. (Such as eliminating unnecessary content and/or presenting existing content in ways that will be more compelling and useful).
The user journey tells more of a story of the person and their ultimate goal in visiting your site. So instead of “Bob the 25 year old investment banker who has an iPod and frequents Starbucks 3.4 times a week” it’s Bob the Banker that wants to book a plane flight to see his girlfriend… that’s his need. Through planning Bob’s journey through the site you might hypothesize that Bob already books tickets online all the time and is just shopping for a better price, or that Bob already has his airfare and is looking for a hotel deal. In which case, you can develop your information architecture and your site’s content, features and functionality to address those different types of scenarios.
A very good thing to think about if you’re looking at ways to keep people on your site. Think not about who they are, but what they need to do on your site. How that changes as they move from page to page… and then try to map the order of information in ways that help people get to a point where they are getting what they need and you’re getting what you need.
Bob needs to book a ticket to see his girlfriend.
You need to sell more tickets online to cut down on your overhead…
What does his iPod, his alma mater, or his salary range have to do with that?