User interface designers are all too familiar with the fight or flight response
They deal with it every day. On the web the battle for attention is brutal — one confusing line and a potential customer clicks away. When faced with a choice to fight and learn an unfamiliar website (or online flight) anonymous visitors will usually choose the latter.
To manage these flighty online consumers, web site designers have had to develop a sophisticated response toolkit. They’ve developed techniques which minimise the flight risk. To stop fight or flight every occurring.
As leaders we can borrow these tools and apply them, outside the web, in our own, real world context. By doing so, we can up our game and keep our own audience engaged.
To see how this might work let’s take an imaginary context and see how we might bring the tools to bear. Let’s imagine an exhibition stand — it’s an environment where visitors have agency to rapidly exit a potential conversation with us, so there are some similarities with the web.
So, how would a web designer design an exhibition stand?
Web designers call the first page someone arrives at from Google the ‘landing page‘
They could have called it ‘the first page‘ or ‘entry page‘ but they didn’t, they called it ‘landing‘. This is because the visitor has come from somewhere, they’ve been flying around, looking, one hopes, for you. It’s critical that this page quickly informs the visitor they are where they expected to be. Their first goal after all is to land in the right place. So when we design our exhibition stand we need to ask, where is our equivalent of a landing page? If you stand in front of the stand, do you know you are in the right place? It might be as simple as making sure the name of the organisation is nice and clear.
Next up web designers consider the ‘onboarding‘ journey — these are highly designed baby steps that walk a newcomer through the experience
They can track their progress and, hopefully get to a point where they understand what’s on offer. It seems odd to think that someone might need onboarding to something as simple as an exhibition stand but many stands leave us confused — we ask questions like ‘what is there to do here? Is there swag to be won? Should I speak to someone or take a leaflet first?‘ Onboarding should make the experience on offer super clear. Again it’s not rocket science, it could be just a notice with — 1 take a leaflet, 2 read it, — prepare your question for our rep. It may sound crazy but if you haven’t made it obvious to your visitor, then they have to figure this out by themselves. And there’s no guarantee they will, before you know it, they’ve moved on. That flight response has kicked in.
A web designer’s job doesn’t end when the site is built either
Once the experience is created, they now embark on the most important part of the job — ‘Conversion Rate Optimisation‘ or ‘CRO‘ for short. CRO requires attention to behaviour data at every step of the process. ‘Did 80% of our visitors fly away at step 2? Lets think how can we make that easier or more compelling!‘
Now in the real world, an exhibition stand rep would struggle to do this. Most stands are designed far in advance of the conference and the rep’s job is to stand in front of them. But, what if you designed your stand with potential iterations in mind — perhaps instead of a printed notice, you use a whiteboard to communicate the onboarding steps. Now your rep can change the messaging in response to observed behaviour.
So fight or flight doesn’t have to — it can be designed away with a few tricks from the world of web design. With a bit of creativity we can apply these techniques to any context — whether that’s our customers, our colleagues, or even ourselves. Who knows, we may keep them engaged after all?
Featured image: 3Motional Studio / Pexels