The impact of user behavior in the design of an Internet site

For several weeks, I have been analyzing a large number of sites (for training courses or redesign projects). After many hours of deconstructing sites (showcases and merchants), I find that often sometimes, some basic rules are forgotten. I take this opportunity to make a point on what seems essential to me in the design of a site: taking into account the behavior and habits of Internet users (and more specifically your target).


In this post, I will develop 2 axes:


– Why it is essential to take into account the behavior of Internet users

– How to go about a website design project


Well, let’s start from the following premise: the users who visit your site must take ownership of it quickly. That is, they must find intuitive navigation. For that, it seems to me essential, in a design project of a website, to take into account their experience as a user.


Indeed, before arriving on your site, a surfer has already visited hundreds of others and learned general lessons. He has his bearings and he applies, often unconsciously, a certain number of rules. He respects standards and conventions. On your site, he will try to apply them.


But what is the difference between a standard and a convention?


Jakob Nielsen (expert in computer ergonomics) differentiates standard and convention as follows:


– When more than 80% of the sites use the same principle, you are dealing with a standard (for example the banner of your site or the logo makes it possible to return to the homepage in one click)

– When 50% to 79% of sites use the same principle, you are dealing with a convention


In other words, when people see something on more than half of the websites, they expect to find the same operation on other sites. Especially the less experienced Internet users who expect, in their logic of use, that all sites work in the same way.


If your site meets these standards, it will seem simple and intuitive for users. If this is not the case, your user may be lost and leave your site (and a user lost, it is not necessarily ten found!).


But all this is not new. Already in 1889 (!) Ivan Pavlov had developed his theory according to which “the reactions acquired by learning and habit become reflexes …”. The famous Pavlov reflex on conditioning.


In short, we understand better why in many surveys, Internet users say conventional sites for their favorite shopping … and therefore, why you must know their habits on the Internet.


The key is upstream of your project


One of your first tasks will be to study your target on the Internet. You can segment this task in 2 steps:


1st step: the profile

Start by separating your primary target and your secondary targets. Then, on each of these targets, ask yourself the following questions:


– Is it an individual? A company ? An association ?

– Where are they (geolocation)?

– What age group?

– What needs compared to my products or services?

– How do they use my products or services (and those of competitors)?

– What are their consumption habits?


The more you know about your targets, the better you can tailor your site to their needs. And yes, it will put you in their place to design your site.


Step 2: Internet usage habits


We then attack the questions directly related to the subject of this post:


– Are my customers or prospects seasoned Internet users or not?

– Which sites do they visit (those of my market but also those of related markets)?

– What do they expect from a site?

– How are they navigating?

– Are they passive or active?

– Are there communities where they are used to speaking (forum for example)?


You will then have to analyze these data and the sites concerned by your study in order to finalize your specifications.


Finally, if people around you know people who are close to your target, ask them to observe them while they surf the Internet. You will be surprised by the number of user information you will collect.


The role of the web provider


If you’ve had the courage to read the post so far, maybe you’re asking yourself this question: but is it the business’s role to do this analysis? By implication, is not it the role of the provider?

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