Help your customers find what they are looking for

We all waste far too much time trying to find what we need.

It can be so frustrating.

Navigating digital products and services can often feel like some sort of cryptic puzzle.

Seems odd doesn’t it?

Why would you make it hard for people to find the things that you are trying to sell to them?

People just want to find what they are looking for, with minimal effort so that they can get on with their lives. 

As part of our work with our clients, we transform organisations, services, and products by making them more customer centric. We do this by deeply understanding customers’ problems, by working with stakeholders to prototype viable solutions, and by ensuring those solutions are delivered with a relentless focus on serving the customer. 

These are some of the ways in which we apply this to improving the findability of content within the products and services that we design.

Use a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods

Quantitative methods will indicate whether people have succeeded or failed to find what they are looking for, but become really powerful when used in conjunction with qualitative research methods that allow to explore exactly why people succeeded or failed. 

Test your information structure using a mobile navigation menu prototype

Testing your information structure within the context of a navigational menu is really important as you are showing it to people in the format that they will experience it in the wild. 

A mobile navigation menu presents the most challenging format to design for given its small physical size. 

It also forces us to think how the menu needs to respond to reinforce how people are moving up and down the information hierarchy. 

Furthermore, it  forces you to think hard about labelling choices because they must both make sense to people and be sufficiently concise.

Mine search logs for clues

We get hold of lists of search terms that people have entered into a site search and that have been used to access the site (and similar sites) from Google.

This uncovers clues of exactly what content users are trying to find and also critically what language they are using to find it. This can be used to identify content gaps, popular content and also to inform the language used for navigation labels.

Trim unnecessary information 

When we work with clients on redesign projects they typically have a product or service that holds a huge variety of information, that varies hugely in usefulness and relevance to their target audience.

We spend time up front deciding exactly what content should be kept and what should be retired from the site to ensure the information is as lean as possible.

Use plain English

We all hate trying to decipher marketing or brand driven language within the things we use everyday. 

We always encourage our clients to use plain English that reflects the tasks that people are trying to get done because by doing so will help them get to their destination more easily.

Aim for effortless

It should be so quick and easy for people to find what they are looking for that the task feels effortless.

So effortless that they find it hard to recall exactly what they just did, because it just worked.

Effortless for the user means lots of effort for the designer. Making things easy to use and find is hard!

You can find out more about how we have applied these ideas for the NHS, by taking a look at this case study of how we redesigned the information architecture for their “Every Mind Matters’ website.

Get in touch to discuss how we can help to improve your products and services and to help to teach your organisation about the benefits of becoming more user centred.

James is responsible for leading user-centred design projects across all industry sectors, and also runs cxlabs. He has written two UX books, speaks regularly at international conferences, and co-founded UXBristol.