We are all designers.

This was the main message behind my post last year about the importance of digital desire paths. For those who are new to building a digital strategy, desire paths are an idea to remind us about the affordance of design.

As Wikipedia explains:
An affordance is a quality of an object, or an environment, which allows an individual to perform an action. For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling.

As PR folk we should be constantly focused on affordance, because the strategies we devise on behalf of clients should directly tap into a person’s behavior. We need to stop talking about ‘audience’ and instead recognise the targets of our campaigns as ‘users’. The wordplay is subtle, the latter focuses on individuals, whilst ‘audience’ is a mistaken term — it’s a concept describing a mass of ultra-attentive people who are ready to be zapped with PR messaging. Frankly, ‘audience’ is bullshit.

Online measurement tools prove unreservedly that every user interacts differently with online campaigns, yet many will fall into patterns of behavior as usually directed by design. For example, have a look at the below graphic.

Thought Symposium user behaviour

The graphic is a snapshot view of the traffic this blog currently receives.

  • Numbers represent the unique visits
  • The addresses are individual pages visited
  • Green shows visits
  • Red shows dropped traffic

The whole table is laid out in terms of ‘first visit’, ‘second page visited’, ‘third page visited’… and so on.

In an instant I can see how individual users are interacting with this blog, how the design of my blog is influencing behavior and which content is performing the best.

My topline thoughts so far:

1) 29% of the users who visit this blog leave immediately. Indicating that perhaps this blog was not relevant, looked too confusing or isn’t updated enough.

2) The majority of people tend to only look at the top performing posts (as shown on the sidebar), rather than reading the newest content. This could potentially be a problem that threatens the future performance of this blog because the ‘top content’ isn’t necessarily the best.

3) Once someone has visited they tend to interact once, then leave. This means the design of this blog needs to deliver relevant content quickly. In the future any increases in this stat could be a reason to change the design of the blog, to show full posts on the first page.

Of course, there are other factors at play in this diagram that are not showing. For example, I know that I’m receiving a fair amount of search engine traffic for a post about PayPal at the moment. Yes, the traffic spike looks great but actually it’s not a great piece of content based upon search engine queries. People don’t want to read my post ranting about PayPal, they want fraud support, and so the bounce rate on this post is high.

Keep my above graphic in mind and read my post from last year about digital desire paths. This post is a small example for how data can be used to craft digital strategies that perform. If you don’t use data to influence your online designs, then you are building something blindfolded.

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