Web Design is Like a Great Hike

I’ve gone on hundreds of hikes in my life, all around the country. Freelance web design has been good to me, and afforded me the chance to travel extensively, full-time even. I also have three young boys, and so spending a couple of hours walking through the forest gives me a little father-son bonding time, and a chance to teach them a thing or two along the way.

But not every hike is equal. While all afford some amount of exercise, there’s climbing the Grand Canyon and then there’s skipping along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. Both are beautiful, one is certainly more difficult than the other. Then there are other types of trails. They wind through the forest, on and on for a few miles, before looping back to the trailhead. There is no payoff, that is, there is no big scenic view at the end or middle or all the way along. These trails are not bad, per se, but when you have the option to walk through a rather typical field or climb to a summit that gives you a majestic view of all the land below, which would you prefer?

That’s how I view website design. A well thought out site has two primary purposes behind the design: get people to stick around initially, and then give them the big payoff that keeps them coming back.

The first part of that comes with the initial beauty of the site. Most people don’t go to Kansas for a good hiking experience, they head to the mountains. Just as you can tell that, upon first glance, Kansas is going to be rather flat and therefore not ideal for hiking, a brilliant website just looks great right from the start. It gets you interested in taking the journey to begin with.

The second part is the payoff. We want users to realize exactly why our website is worth coming back. Just as a trail will have signs or markers along the way telling you where to go, I use color, shapes and language to direct people to the best destinations the website has to offer. Purchasing some revolutionary new product, reading your amazing content or making some social connection with your organization, these are all worthy payoffs. We just need to make sure they realize how to get there, so they’ll want to come back (and tell others about the experience as well!)

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