In the first post in this series, I talked about how great web design and theme parks both need to appeal to multiple types of visitors at the same time. Once you make your visitors comfortable, the next step is guiding them to where you need them to go.
Leading Your Audience to the Right Destination
Theme parks have some major hurdles when it comes to managing the flow of visitors. First, they have to make it easy for visitors to get to the destinations they are most interested in. Next, they have to control the flow of traffic as visitors proceed to those destinations.
Theme parks use a wide array of resources and techniques to help visitors get where they need to go. They supply maps and signage--even apps--to help visitors navigate the park. They often use consistent colors and design elements in these materials to help the visitor recognize when they are looking at a "navigation aid." They also supply shortcuts like trams or monorails to take visitors from one area of the park to another.
Web designers use similar techniques to help users navigate a website. Sitemaps and navigation menus act as our maps and CTAs (calls to action) serve as a form of signage to help the user find what he or she is looking for. By using consistent style and coloring in our navigation and CTAs, we help keep them visible and recognizable to the user. CTAs also act as "shortcuts" guiding the user to the most important content.
Theme parks also have to manage the flow of visitors as they move through the park. One way they do this is by offering multiple routes to a given location, decreasing the number of feet taking the same path. Another technique is offering "distractions" (smaller attractions, for instance) along the way. As portions of the crowd get sidetracked by these, the crowd becomes more equally distributed throughout the park.
We use similar techniques in website design. However, instead of decreasing wait times or shortening lines, our goal is to make sure people reach the content we want them to see. We use CTAs to create multiple routes to those content destinations, even if that content isn't the primary reason they've come to the site. CTAs can also act as the secondary attractions that help keep the user circulating through the "park" and lead them toward Space Mountain. Just like in a theme park, great web design captures portions of the crowd and guides them where we need them to go.
In the next part of this series, I’ll take a look at the most important part of the website (and theme park) design. Stay tuned for Part 3: The Main Attraction!