Why do they visit our website?

Randall Munroe, the creator of the webcomic xkcd, has a unique talent for bringing to light the humor in uncomfortable truths. Take, for example, the following strip he published in July 2010:

His diagram resonates because it has been true — over and over again — on our own site as well as on the sites of many of our sister institutions. We must remember that users come to our website with specific tasks they want to accomplish. If they visit our homepage at all, it must do three things for them, almost instantly. These are:

  • Reassure them that they’re in the right place to complete their tasks (otherwise, they’ll leave);

  • Provide evident “next steps” for them to complete those tasks (otherwise, they’ll leave); and

  • Give them an emotional “first impression” consistent with how we want to be perceived.

So if we’re going to focus our design on the tasks that our users wish to perform, we must better understand what drives them.

The background research we have achieved with the WebLife project has uncovered five essential motivations that drive our target audiences. Our visitors want to:

  1. Be healthy by managing or improving their own health or the well-being of people they care about. These are our patients, prospective patients and members of the community.

  2. Heal others by curing individuals of specific illnesses or helping others improve their wellness. These are our current and future health care providers.

  3. Cure disease by making scientific discoveries that lead to treatments and cures to diseases or improve human health. These are our current and future researchers.

  4. Leave a legacy by contributing to improving human health by personally contributing money, time or even their own bodies to this worthy cause.

  5. Inform themselves and others to make better decisions regarding human health. These are our policymakers, educators or citizens.

Notice that the list does not include “become a student” or even “get a degree.” For our students and prospective students, we provide a pathway to their larger life goals of healing others and curing disease. Our schools are not destinations. They are stepping-stones on that journey.  In fact, all five of those essential motivations are personal journeys that the Health Science Center can support — but we are not the endpoint for any of them.

As we create a new Web presence, we must ensure that every decision we make — every word of text, every image, every hyperlink — is designed to make those five journeys more successful for our users. We must seek to highlight where our journey, as an institution toward our missions and goals, can intersect — even for a little while — with our users’ own personal journeys and goals. By taking this approach, we can find a little more success and create a little more overlap in our Venn diagram.


Article Categories: Content Strategy, User Experience

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