Of course you want your company’s website to look good, but it’s not enough just to have a cool looking website. It must work well for your customers, and for visitors who may become customers. When a website requires more knowledge or information than the user has readily available, a knowledge gap is created. If the knowledge gap is too great, then would-be customers may click away from your website immediately, never to return.
Current Knowledge versus Target Knowledge
The knowledge gap is the disparity between the knowledge a user of your website has versus the knowledge that is necessary to use the website effectively. The knowledge that users have is known as current knowledge; the knowledge they need is known as target knowledge. The problem arises when your website is too difficult to use for your actual or potential customers – in other words, when the knowledge gap is large.
The gap between current knowledge and target knowledge varies according to a number of factors. If your website is very easy to use, the knowledge gap is probably very small or nonexistent even if your customers are tech novices. Likewise, if your customers are especially tech savvy, the knowledge gap for your website could also be small even if the design makes it difficult to use for average for non tech savvy customers.
Know Your Customer
The first step in executing intuitive web design is to get a fix on your customers and their level of technological comfort. You can do so by observing your target customers as they use the Internet during their normal interactions. This is one way of gauging their current level of technological knowledge.
To determine target knowledge, recruit a few potential customers to use your website as they relate their experiences out loud. This exercise points out areas of potential difficulty in using your website. Ideally, you would use the insights gained through the exercise to address potential knowledge gaps associated with your website.
With each approach, you would observe and take notes without interfering with the individual being observed. Ideally, you would not be present while making your observation or at least your presence would not be known while your observations were taking place. In most cases, you will only need to observe ten customers to discover ninety percent of the inherent challenges with your website.
Intuitive Web Design
There are two approaches to intuitive web design. Each approach is equally desirable in the sense that the result would reduce or eliminate knowledge gaps. Both approaches are also invisible to users – all they know is that your website is easy to use.
One approach to bridging the knowledge gap meets users where they are with web design that makes no demands of users beyond their own present knowledge. The present knowledge and target knowledge levels are the same. The second approach to bridging the knowledge gap painlessly guides users so that present knowledge matches target knowledge. It is also possible to combine both approaches, depending on your website and what you need and want users to be able to do.