How to Guide Users to Do What You Want


By Chaim Sajnovsky, Manager.


Great applications and websites allow users to take an action or complete a process without thinking about it. Making a purchase, discovering a new recipe, or even playing a game, all require user experience and interaction work to guide the user to do what they are intended to do—what you want them to do! Getting users to do what you want them to requires an understanding of user behavior, existing design patterns, and a keen sense on how to blend the two together.

Easier said than done. Creating a usable and actionable interface takes work on the back end and during design process. It should also be considered an area of continual optimization as you add new features and develop a deeper understanding of your users. Thankfully, intuitive, functional and fun user experience is not a guessing game. There is a scientific, 4-step method for achieving brilliant UI/UX and sustaining growth for your company. Here’s how to guide users to do what you want without explicitly asking for it.

1. Offer Real Value
Relationships are reciprocal, and that’s not just a life lesson. This holds true in user experience design, too. The first step when guiding your users is to make sure they see the value your app or website offers. A strong value proposition is important to begin with, but be sure to sprinkle that value proposition throughout your product. Every screen should clearly indicate what action the user should take. It should also be clear what the user will get in return for taking that action.

This can be accomplish in a number of ways, most easily by a clear and concise call-to-action (CTA). They aren’t just a good marketing tool, they’re a great way to tell a user what is about to happen. For example, “Read More” tells a user they can learn more about whatever topic they were just reading about. The CTA wouldn’t just say “View” or “Go” because those are too ambiguous and don’t give the user any context on where they are going. Another good example of indicating action is a progress bar. When a user is inside of a process, such as a survey or checkout, be sure to let them know how far they’ve come and how many steps are to follow.

2. Make it Intuitive
Intuition equates to simplicity for a user. If they can navigate without assistance (training, directions or experimentation), then you’ve created something that is intuitive. The way to make your product intuitive is to use existing design patterns and/or emulate real-world experiences. Design patterns emerge as solutions to digital problems. As the patterns are used more and more for a certain functions, they increase in popularity and and adoption. Widely-adopted patterns should be replicated in some form, because you won’t need to teach your user how to do something. Vertically-stacked email sign-up forms, hearts with a number count for likes, and progress bars (as we mentioned earlier) are all excellent examples of design patterns that have been widely adopted. When tested, users should describe these patterns as “familiar” or “just feels right,” because they hardly even recognize they’re there. That’s what makes intuitive design decision so important.

For more complex features, you always have the option of revealing features as the user explores. Giving users enough to do with your app or website, but not overwhelming them, will make it accessible to new users while giving veteran users more capabilities. This is a common pattern with search. A simple search bar is a very familiar pattern, so using it will hardly ever cause confusion; however, sometimes users have more complicated searches they’d like to perform. In that case, make those features available for users by expanding a new section or taking them to an “Advanced Search” page as Google does.

There are a number of other factors to remember when making your product intuitive, including:
Expectations: Are you using conventions and patterns that a user is familiar with?
Responsiveness: Does the user recieve any feedback that a change has occurred?
Organization: Are things grouped together in a logical way?
Forgiveness: If a user makes a mistake, are they able to go back?
Consistency: Do you use the same patterns throughout?
Hierarchy: Is it easy for users to discern the most important features and CTAs?

3. Talk Like a Human
One of the easiest mistakes to make when building your product is to use “technical” terms where you should be using common language. This tends to occur when you’re working fast and developers are making decisions about naming conventions. It is good to talk about naming conventions during the mockup process, so that the developers have zero guesswork when it comes to naming things. This little bit of consistency between the back-end and what the users sees will help make your entire product more friendly and easy to build. For example, if your app is targeted to a specific group of people—let’s say “vacation planners”—use customized language that they would be familiar with such as: trip (instead of shopping cart) and book (instead of purchase). This is the language vacation planners are already using, so implementing it throughout your product will make them feel more comfortable.

4. Keep Improving
Always be optimizing and adding new design patterns. A user is an ever-evolving person who will pick up on new design patterns and wants to use products that are up-to-date. Continue to try new patterns by doing simple A/B testing. Change the CTAs to keep returning users attention, if it makes sense. Keep things the same that are core to your product of course, but don’t be afraid to experiment! There are plenty of websites that allow you to A/B test your website, such as Optimizely or Maxymiser, and often times your development team can accomplish simple A/B tests in-house.

Using patterns and making smart design decisions will allow you make something simple, but powerful enough to accomplish your users’ goals. Anticipate their needs and give them a way to arrive at their goals that is intuitive. Some say “great design is invisible,” and they’re right. If your design doesn’t draw too much attention and guides a user without difficulty, then your design is doing it’s job. Your users will do exactly what you want them to do because you designed it that way!