Building A Problem-Based Website Navigation For A Solution Driven Mindset

A few months back we had a hypothesis that moving away from a “service-based navigation” and creating a “problem-based website navigation”, would increase conversions, engagement, and provide a better user experience.

After gathering both qualitative data through user research, quantitative data through Google analytics, and doing user testing, we transitioned our navigation (and a few select clients) to a problem-based architecture.

Not only did this increase conversions, but user satisfaction and engagement increased significantly as well.

Here’s that story.

The Problems Being Solved For

Most websites have a primary navigation built upon internal services, and product or service descriptions. This is causing problems such as:

  • Positioning your business as a vendor and not a partner – which can inherently make a service seem like a price based commodity.
  • Not aligning with the new user’s mindset, which is moving in a conversational direction due to voice search becoming the norm.
  • Not positioning your business as one who solves problems, or addresses client problems.

So is there a better way to build a website navigation? We think so, and we call it a problem-based navigation based on tasks.

So what is a problem-based navigation structure? We define it as a navigation that is built and framed based upon your user’s problems and challenges and the solutions you provide. It is inherently more conversational, with the goal of aligning with the mindset and challenges your users face.

How to Build a Problem-Based Website Navigation

Step 1: Understand Your Target User’s Problems

This is one of the core principles when building a navigation using a problem-based methodology.

To be successful with this you must meet with clients and users, and keep pressing and reframing your questions to get to the true challenges they face.

The biggest mistake businesses make in this step is settling for generic or high level problems, and not digging in to get the the core issue that would cause someone to need one of your services.

Step 2: Find The Emotional Trigger

An emotional trigger is the response to an external stimuli that causes you to take an action. In the digital world it is what your users encounter causing them to need and then search for a solution to their their problem.

Defining this emotional trigger will not only provide insight into navigation language, but also help with connecting the service page to the problem statement. This connection can be accomplished by restating the emotional trigger on the service page.

Step 3: Do The Keyword Research

Usability experts know that anchoring the users mental model with the service that is being offered is key. SEO’s know that including primary keywords within internal links can help with Google rankings.

When creating your problem-based navigation make sure you include the keyword target in the problem statement to connect the service to the problem, and help with SEO.

Step 4: Create Each Navigation Label In Conversational Language

Instead of just listing your services, as the majority of websites do, wrap each service in a problem statement that you’ve identified as a primary problem defined in step 1 above.

This may seem like a small change, but conversational statements align better with mental models, and are more relatable for users.

Step 5: Be Precise And Focused With Navigation Labels

When creating a navigation structure like this, it’s tempting to be long-winded and write long problem statements. Remember, this is still a navigation, and thus the labels should be short and concise.

Where as a longer problem statement may be hyper-focused on a very specific problem, it may cause other problems with content consumption, design elements, or be too specific for the page being linked to.

Benefits of Problem-Based Navigations

There are many benefits to rebuilding your navigation to focus on client problems, and away from your services. Below are a few that were apparent when we started building our client’s (and our own) website navigation based on solution and problem statements.

It focuses Your Services On Problem Solving

Ultimately when users come to your website they are searching for a solution to their problem. They may not always know what they need (or think they know what they need, but are incorrect), but they do know where their business is having problems.

By focusing your navigation on these problems, it helps guide users to the correct service or solution for their problem.

It Positions Your Business As A Partner, Not A Vendor

When building your business, it helps to think more like a consultant and less like a sales person. Ultimately you are trying to help someone solve a problem they are having, and not trying to sell or push your services on them.

The goal of a business should be to become a trusted partner who solves client problems, and not one who pushes their own services, without understanding client challenges.

The difference between being a vendor, or becoming a trusted partner is significant.

  • Vendor services are subject to commoditization, are usually bought based heavily on price, and the ability to differentiate your services from the competition becomes exponentially more difficult – thus your clients feel like they can leave and find what you offer in many other places.
  • When you become a true partner and solve client problems it becomes less about price and more about the relationship. Clients are less likely to worry about your hourly rate, they are more likely to take chances, trust increases, and client turnover drops significantly.

It Aligns With New User Behavior

With user’s thought processes and behaviors becoming more conversational in nature when engaging online, and voice search becoming the norm, building your website’s navigation to mirror this behavioral direction is one key to providing a best in class user experience.

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