Is it Wrong to Have a Goal-Oriented Home Page?

    February 5, 2004

Not too long ago, a client asked me to create a new design for his company’s home page. As I was getting ready to work on the design, I asked my client what the homepage needed to accomplish. In other words, what were the page’s primary goals? What did the company want clients to do when they got to the home page?

The response was simple. Essentially, the company wanted me to design the site so that visitors would be able to find what they were looking for.

Interesting answer. In other words, their primary goal is for visitors to be able to locate what they are searching for, without defining specific goals for what the company wants visitors to do once the arrive at the home page. Their response implied that there is a conflict between designing a goal-oriented site and designing around visitors’ needs.

Based on my own personal experience, a lot of people perceive the same conflict. They believe it is better to invite visitors in and ask them to look around, without defining specific actions they want visitors to take. To them, being visitor-oriented means being passive, and designing a goal-oriented page is in opposition to a strong customer focus.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course, the first priority of web design is to meet the needs of your visitor. Your every decision in designing your site should revolve around them–not you.

But does that mean it’s wrong to set goals for your site and define what you want visitors to do? Nope.

Think of it like a dating relationship. Does the object of your affection want to be completely controlled? Of course not. But do they want you to be passive? Not that either. On the contrary, they want their hearts to be won.

Your visitors are the same way–they want to be won as well. They need you to be persuasive. Visitors are expecting YOU to have the answer to their problem. They want you to have a game plan. And finally, they want you to tell them exactly what to do to get to the solution.

Keep in mind that many people who come to your site have poorly articulated needs. They need someone to help them define their need, educate them about their circumstances and options, explain why your solution is the best, and tell them exactly what to do to get that solution. They need you to be persuasive.

Of course you need to be visitor-oriented. But if you learn how to match your solutions to well-defined, clearly articulated needs on the part of the visitor, there won’t be any discrepancy between what they want to do and what you want them to do. In that sense, you’ll be able to design a visitor-oriented page that is also completely goal-oriented.

In other words, instead of asking a client, “What are your goals for this page,” I could just as well ask, “What do your visitors need from this page?” (In fact, it’s helpful to keep both versions of the question in mind for balance.) The answer to both questions will be the same.

As you seek to be visitor-oriented, don’t underestimate the importance of defining specific goals. Doing so will help both you and your visitor achieve satisfaction.

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