How To Help Users Achieve Their Goals

February 16, 2014 Lauren Glichrist

Recently, I was speaking to a Pivotal designer who, in his spare time, has been re-vamping an informational site for WAYK (Where are Your Keys?). WAYK is a language game created by Evan Gardner which helps individuals rapidly learn a new language.

Evan had identified three distinct user identities — students of the game, teachers of the game, and what he calls activists: those who advocate for the education and adoption of a particular language (and who may or may not have heard of WAYK).

The redesign lays out three pathways in the navigation: Students, Teachers, and Activists.

At first glance, these buckets make perfect sense. But something’s getting lost in translation here.

In WAYK, a user can be both a student of Spanish and a teacher of French. A user can also be both an activist for ASL and a teacher of ASL. A user can also be a student of Spanish, a teacher of French and ASL, and an activist for ASL.

When the navigation focuses on on the user’s identity, it’s possible for users to get confused — or worse — feel that their identity isn’t represented by the options on the page.

When navigation represents a user’s goals, however, a user is much more likely to be able to find their path.

Consider the goals of the WAYK users:

  • Students might be looking for an active language game in a particular language.
  • Teachers might be looking for tools, resources, and best practices about WAYK methodologies.
  • Activists might be looking to advocate for their particular language, but don’t yet know how WAYK can help them.

For WAYK, a goal-focused navigation might read “Find a Game,” “Teach a Game,” and “Learn More About WAYK.”

Consider Kickstarter as another example:

Kickstarter has two basic users identities: funders and fundees. In their earliest days, Kickstarter focused on one identity: the funder. Here’s their navigation from 2009:

Screenshot 2014-02-16 17.20.10

Note that the navigation doesn’t say “Fund a Project” or “Funders.” Instead, Kickstarte realized its users wanted to discover something new or unique.

Here’s Kickstarter’s homepage now:

Screenshot 2014-02-16 17.18.48

Note that they’ve identified more goals of their users, but discovery remains prominent. Kickstarter has also added “Start” for fundees looking to launch a campaign, and “Search” for fundees or funders to easily access a specific project.

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet to understanding your users’ goals. Identifying your user types is just the first step. From there, take your best guess at their goals. Try making a mockup and showing it to a handful of people. It doesn’t need to be perfect! Odds are you won’t get it right the first try — but you’ll certainly learn something valuable along the way.

About the Author


More Content by Lauren Glichrist
Subjective Design & Objective Design
Subjective Design & Objective Design

“Design” is a Messy Word When people ask what I do and I reply “I’m a designer”, their first reaction is of...

Managing multiple DBs in a Spring project
Managing multiple DBs in a Spring project

During our daily Rails development we use 2 local databases. The first a development DB that can be used to...

Enter curious. Exit smarter.

Register Now