Tough choices and prioritisation

Paul Boag

Are you setting your site priorities or is your design doing it for you?

Sometimes the littlest feature takes a disproportionate amount of thought.

Take for example the calls to action tabs at the bottom of this post. @AMcDermott recently asked me:

It was a good question. In fact it reveals two of the founding principles of my design approach; simplicity and prioritisation.

I made a decision early on that I wanted the new design for boagworld to focus on the content. I wanted to remove other distractions making it easier to read.

This involved making some tough choices about my user interface. Some elements had to go entirely, others fade back when the user stops interacting with them and others had to be hidden.

The calls to action on the boagworld website

The toughest of these decisions was prioritising the next actions for those who finish reading a post.

Did I want to keep them on the site? Did I want them to share the post with their friends? Or did I want them to engage with me?

I had ways to achieve each:

  • To encourage sharing I had the option to tweet or share on Facebook.
  • To keep them on the site I had related articles.
  • For engagement I offered the ability to add comments.

On the old site I offered all three. However, because of its physical size on the page commenting dominated. Was that really the right balance?

Making these tough decisions about prioritisation is painful. After all I wanted a user to do all three. However, in the end you have to make a choice. After all its impossible not to. Size, position, wording, imagery and a host of other factors will set the priority even if you try not to. Its almost impossible to make three calls to action equally important.

It also introduces the danger of choice paralysis where the user just decides not to decide. Instead they leave, which is obviously the worst decision of all.

In my case I introduced this tabbed approach. It helped with my goal of simplicity while also providing a clear indication of which my number one priority was. I wanted people to share the post. The other options were still available, but they didn’t clutter up the interface or leave people indecisive.

Admittedly I have seen a drop-off in the number of comments. However, I have seen sharing go through the roof, which was exactly what I wanted.

The question is; are you trying to put off prioritising your calls to action? Are you asking the user to do so many things they are being pulled in multiple directions? Most importantly, are you making a conscious decision about your priorities or are you allowing the UI to make those decisions for you.