The line between useful and... useless (or pushy or simply annoying) is thinner than you think. That's why creating a mind map that aligns your site's content structure with the user intent is... critical.
"Whether you’re a product owner or designer, you don’t want your website to be a maze with nothing but frustrating blind alleys.” (source: altexsoft.com)
And there's no guessing work or discouragingly complex process in identifying the current user flow on each web page on your website:
Just take a look at the behavior flow report in your Google Analytics. No rocket science here...
Take it from there and:
- identify the roadblocks
- restructure content on each page so that it matches user intent and is fluid and easy to read
But let us give you a hand with that. With mind mapping your current customer journey and planning its improved version:
In this respect, in today's post we'll:
- give you the “anatomy” of a user-friendly website: what elements make a website, well, user-friendly?
- define mind mapping with respect to designing the user experience on a website
- teach you how to create a mind map: an easy step-by-step guide
- show you how to use a mind map to make UX improvements on your website
1. The Anatomy of a User-Friendly Website: 4 Essential Features
“A vague objective leads to poor results.”
There's no point in creating a mind map that would hopefully make your website more user-friendly if... you're not quite sure what key elements make a website user-friendly.
So, here's the list of must-haves for any website aspiring to deliver a great user experience:
1.1. High Speed
It's no news to anyone: the page loading time has a huge impact on the user experience.
Unnecessary interactive elements, that don't match users' needs and don't play any role in the conversion process either, will only get you a clunky and... well... slow website.
1.2. Useful Features
And “intuitive” I must add.
Again, we go back to the “elements justified by the user's needs” principle:
Is that slider useful and relevant for the user behavior on your website? It it too bulky, loaded with endless options that just ... discourage the visitor?
You might want to re-evaluate all the features on your website: are they relevant and intuitive enough?
1.3. A Well-Structured Information Architecture
- easy to access
- easy to interpret
… is key for a wannabe user-friendly website.
1.4. Content that Matches User Intent
If users are looking for online cooking classes, let's say — and that's precisely what you promise to deliver them — and you're only trying to sell them kitchen gadgets on your website, the only result that you'll get is them bouncing off in seconds.
2. What Is Mind Mapping with Respect to Designing the User Experience?
An overly simplified definition would be:
A way to brainstorm and present the generated information in a visual way.
Now, since I've promised you a definition “with respect to” creating the user experience, here's a more... context-specific definition:
Mind mapping is a vesatile technique where you put together a visual hierarchy of your site's present or future content. It lists out the key pages on your website (homepage, service pages, blog page, etc.), the various relations between different web pages, the links and CTAs on each page...
In short: mind mapping reveals how data is structured on your website.
Of course, you'll then consider creating a mind map of the target version of your current website. The more user-friendly one...
3. Main Benefits of Using Mind Mapping: From Great Ideas to... Actionable Steps
Finding new ideas is exciting.
But jumping on every new great idea that someone in your team has, without first checking whether it aligns with the user intent, is just like... making shapes out of soap foam.
Not only that they're not future-proofed, but that clutter of ideas might not work together either.
By using one of the best mapping tools available online for structuring those ideas as they... pop out, you turn them into actionable steps in your strategy for improving the UX on your website.
And the clear benefits to mind mapping are:
- you define your ideas' roles: what role do they play in your UX strategy (if you can't assign them a role, they're just “Wow” ideas with no solid justification)
- you assess their value: how does implementing this new idea bubble up to the user experience?
- you identify the various relations between them: you might want to avoid “island-ideas”, with no connections to other ideas listed out in your mind map
4. Creating a Mind Map: 5 Simple Steps
Now that you know what a mind map is and why on earth you'd bother making one, let's see how you can actually put one together:
4.1. Create a Mind-Map Template
Just so you can have a basic idea of the current information architecture on your website.
List out how data's being structured on your website now and how you plan to structure it for its more user-friendly future version...
4.2. Map Out Your Ideal User Flow
How would you like your website visitors to engage with your content? What actions would you like them to perform?
Once you've outlined the key pages on your website (homepage, services, features), start planning out the user flow.
4.3. Compare it to the Current Behavior Flow Available on Your Google Analytics
Before you can properly map out the user flow, you need to know what's the standard customer journey on your website now.
For that, just delve into your Google Analytics data and look for the user behavior report. It'll show you all you need to know about:
- how users are engaging with your website's content
- what paths they usually take when navigating through your current information architecture
4.4. Identify the Roadblocks
The user behavior data might reveal to you some unwanted realities regarding the user experience on your website:
- poorly structured content
- a bulky and tiresome collection of interactive elements
- irrelevant features (embedded videos, interactive elements, social sharing functionalities)
- too many tools that don't respond to users' needs
4.5. Make the Appropriate UX Decisions to Influence the User Behavior
Now that you've identified the main roadblocks in delivering the best user experience, it's time to... remove them, one by one:
- turn chaos into a logical content hierarchy
- trim irrelevant page elements, with zero value in the conversion process
- adapt web pages' content structure to the needs of specific audience segments (make sure to include relevant information for those customer personas, redesign your CTAs if needed...)
5. How to Use a Mind Map to Make Powerful UX Improvements
Creating a mind map is but the first step:
Turning it into powerful UX decisions should be your main objective.
So, the answer to the question “Are mind maps effective/useful?” is:
They are if and only if you make them useful and... usable.
You can turn your mind map into:
- an effective sitemap
- a customer journey map
But let us take a real-life scenario and point out specific UX decisions that you could make with your mind map at hand.
It's an example that I've run into reading Mindmaster team's great blog post: A Simple Way to Design UX, UI and CX Using Mind Maps:
Say you're targeting 3 different customer personas on your website. You then need to plan 3 different user flows.
You start by grouping the web pages on your site into 3 categories, each of them corresponding to one audience segment.
Then, you start doing some user behavior mapping: how do you want each customer persona to navigate to the corresponding web page so that he/she clicks the CTA placed there?
Now, it's time to make some critical UX decisions:
- what relations to set up between various pages on your website? You might have a user on a service page and you need him/her to visit your “get a quote” page, as well
- what's the best CTA design for each one of your 3 types of pages?
- what key information should you include on a page, depending on the customer persona accessing it?
See? Not only that creating a mind map helps you put together an effective information architecture, but it's also a great technique for generating content ideas that match the user intent.
6. Final Word
In the end, it all comes down to goal setting.
Creating a mind map is a great way to:
- understand your website goals: what type of conversion actions do you want users to perform?
- achieve those website goals by delivering a user-friendly experience: content that's useful, accessible, easy to read and to interpret
Do you usually create mind maps when building new websites, to ensure they'll deliver the best user experience?
Or for existing ones, to improve their UX?
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