“Don’t tell me what to do!”

So you have a website, but will your visitors use it in the way you hope they will? Whether you want visitors to find out information, watch/listen to media or buy/sell something, your aim is to get them to do it before they leave your site. How can you do that when people hate being told what to do?

Force the user journey?

In short, you can’t ever force your visitors to do anything. We call people who enter your website “visitors”, we don’t call them “prisoners”. So it is important to constantly bear in mind that they are usually there out of their own free will. Equally, the way they use your website (their “behaviour”) is their own choice. You may have a very specific and wonderful user journey planned out, but the best you can do is guide and encourage them to follow the path you’d like them to take.

Why carrot over stick?

No matter how much you try to remove your visitors’ choices by limiting their navigational options, there are always two choices – to stay or to go. If you don’t allow them to choose their own journey through your website, they will probably just decide to leave.

Put simply: respect your visitors and offer them everything they need in the most logical, attractive way possible.

Use a logical site structure and layout

Do some user testing and listen to your own instincts. Ask your testers to find certain things or perform specific actions on your website and record their feedback. Could they find everything they were looking for?

If you have any analytics data for your website, check what the most visited pages are, along with the most frequent exit pages. This is an invaluable insight to your visitors’ behaviour. Are they doing what you expect them to do?

The key here is to give visitors lots of what they want and never less than they need.

Attract, coax, intrigue

If you want a visitor to perform a particular action, whether it’s watch a video or click on a link, you need to somehow persuade them to do it.

Dangle that carrot again:

a. Videos

  • Give your videos titles that accurately describe the content and entice users to click the play button.
  • Always pick an interesting, visually stimulating video thumbnail (the freeze frame that shows when the video isn’t playing). The thumbnail you choose can help to sell or repel video plays. You can change YouTube video thumbnails easily.

b. Links

All links within your website should describe what you are linking to and, if possible, why the visitor should click on them. Remember that links are calls to action, so make sure you sell the action well. What benefit will the visitor get out of this click?

c. Section and page names

The titles you give to sections and pages should clearly represent the content they contain. This goes for the page headings and navigation labels too.

d. Page presentation

If you want someone to read a passage of text, make it look as appealing as possible. Break up big blocks of text with smaller manageable chunks. Make sure your content is easy to read – a good way to check is reading it out loud.

e. Image slide shows

Obviously, all of the images on your website should be stimulating to some degree. But if you’re using any kind of image slider or transition, you need to carefully think about the image order. Always try to use the best ones first to hook visitor attention.

f. Cohesion

Think about how all of this ties together. Don’t allow items of content to clash or compete with each other. Make sure the page has a focal point, which is closely related to what action you would like visitors to perform.

A safer “get out clause”

Don’t forget that visitors always have the ultimate “get out clause” – if they don’t like the page they are on, they can easily exit your website. Where possible, always offer an alternative call to action that doesn’t involve leaving the site. For example, if the focus of a page is a video, accompany it with a link to an alternative piece of content.

Your website should be like a pick ‘n’ mix sweet shop; full of choices. But remember to carefully choose which sweets to stock.


There’s so much more we want to tell you. For help with information architecture, user experience, web design and more, get in touch with Group Dane.


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