Web site owners often think of their site as a single entity. However many visitor are only interested in one page, they don't look at anything else. If you follow that thought, it could change the way you think about web design. (For example: you might need to consider a target user for each page!)

Are Web Sites a convenient fiction?

Last edited 2006-12-20

Kohimarama Yacht Club, in reflection.

If you are a Web Site owner or designer, do you think of a web site as a single entity? One navigation system, one ideal visitor, one look and feel? If you're like me, then you like to stick with one ideal visitor, I call him a persona. One person I hold in my minds eye when thinking through web site decisions. For a site that sells one product, no variants that might well be the right thing to do. If the site has multiple products or many on-page-visitors, it could be wrong.

You can get a handle on this for your own site/s quite easily. Examine the site logs and use your mental image of what the user does. From those you can guess how many people look at one page on a visit and actually read it. As a sanity check think of your own browsing habits and those of others. How often do you use a search engine and look at only one page from many of the sites you visit?

What does that show? Might you have a lot of one-page-visitors? If so it's worth thinking what that means. Here's a few points worth considering:

  1. Your navigation is not used by the one-page-visitor. That's right for some part of your visitors if you had no navigation it wouldn't make any difference! Don't spend too much on the navigation, keep it simple.
  2. Your one persona for the whole site might be wrong. The people who look at different pages might be quite unlike.
  3. If you have a few distinct products (in-a-hurry version, professional-methodical version, test-the-idea version?), you might need a few personae.
  4. Your nice unified design might not be seen by a lot of your visitors. (Which is not to say you shouldn't have that unified design.)

Similar thinking applies to closely related page-clusters. A few pages that a single visitor will look at. How does that impact your design?

Realisation that this is what really happens with your site can be a liberating experience. Some analysis paralysis might be ended, no need to agonise over a design issue if it's irrelevant for most visitors.

Even in this situation I'm inclined to choose a single persona. A well developed persona saves time and is convenient to use. A persona-per-page would be inconvenient and potentially time consuming. I'm currently facing a situation which seems to call for several personae. I'm going to try something different. I'm going to consciously apply what I'm calling a mindset approach. A mindset is a modification to the base persona. It describes what a known visitor is thinking on this visit (and related visits). That involves refactoring the persona. It may be quite an interesting exercise.

Related Topics