Designing for Your Objectives

President of WebFX. Bill has over 25 years of experience in the Internet marketing industry specializing in SEO, UX, information architecture, marketing automation and more. William's background in scientific computing and education from Shippensburg and MIT provided the foundation for MarketingCloudFX and other key research and development projects at WebFX.

Whenever I’m working with a new client, the first question I ask them is what they want their website to do for them. Often, they don’t know. They just think a website is something they should probably have.

Because other businesses have them. But a website is an investment, of both time and money, and from a business perspective, it won’t be a smart one unless you know exactly what to expect out of your investment. Knowing what we need a website to achieve right from the start is crucially important to the entire project.

It helps us maximize our conversion rates. It helps us develop a unified design direction. It helps us make good, logical decisions throughout the entire process.

It helps us communicate our message more clearly with our teammates, our clients and our site users. In this article, we will talk about objectives-driven design.

Types of Website Objectives

We could classify site objectives into two types:

  1. High-level objectives
  2. User-interaction objectives

These objectives must be identified at the start of website projects.

Identifying High-level Objectives

High-level objectives are the things you want to get out of having a site. How will the website contribute to the bottom line of the business? Examples of high-level objectives can be:

  • Selling a product or set of products either on-site or a third-party marketplace
  • Generating ad revenue through great content that people want to read
  • Convincing people to subscribe or sign up for a web service or membership
  • Getting people to donate to your non-profit organization
  • Increasing people’s awareness of the business
  • Persuading people to contact the site owner via phone, email and/or a web form

High-level objectives will drive the entire website production process.

Identifying User-interaction Objectives

After we identify high-level objectives of a site, we are ready to develop specific user-interaction objectives. User-interaction objectives are specific things we would like people to do on our site. Our user-interaction objectives should be purposeful.

They should, directly or indirectly, lead to the achievement of our high-level objectives. We can categorize user-interaction objectives into two types:

  • Primary user-interaction objective
  • Supportive user-interaction objective

Primary User-interaction Objective

A primary user-interaction objective is any interaction that will almost always count towards achieving our high-level objectives. For example, a user clicking on a “sign up” button is a primary user-interaction objective because it is a direct action towards our high-level objective of acquiring more users.

Supportive User-interaction Objectives

Some people might not be ready to perform primary user-interaction objectives. They might need to see more persuasive content in order to get them to sign up, for example. That’s where supportive user-interaction objectives come into play.

They are like a safety net for us: If the person isn’t ready to take the primary user-interaction user-flow, then we provide them with alternative options that may eventually lead to it. An example of a supportive user-interaction objective is a person to clicking on a “learn more” link where they can read about the features of the product, key benefits, see a demo video and other persuasive material that may eventually lead to them clicking on the “sign up” button.

Examples of User-interaction Objectives

Here are a few examples of user-interaction objectives:

Click on “Sign up” button– Click on “learn more” button – Watch a demo video – Go through a feature tour – Read testimonials from existing customers
Click on “Buy now” button– View photos of products – Read customer reviews of products – Add to “wish list” for later action
Click on “Donate” button– Watch video about charity activities – Sign up for charity’s email newsletter

How It All Ties Together

Here is how all the types of website objectives work together:

Objectives-driven Design in Action

Let us look at some objectives-driven designs to gain a better understanding of the concept. In each example, see how specific design techniques like color choices, object sizing, visual hierarchy, groupings, and so forth inform us clearly what the objectives are.

Example 1: Dropbox


High-level objectives
Increase the number of new Dropbox users
Encourage existing users to continue using Dropbox
Primary user-interaction objectivesPurpose
Click “Sign up” buttonIncrease the number of new users
Click “Download”Encourage existing users to continue using Dropbox by increasing the number of devices they install the software on
Click “Sign in”Encourage existing users to continue using Dropbox
Supportive user-interaction objectivePurpose
Click or scroll down to “Learn more” sectionConvince potential users to sign up

Example 2: Barack Obama

Barack Obama Barack Obama’s site is another example of an objectives-driven design.

High-level objectives
Get donations
Voter engagement
Voter awareness
Primary user-interaction objectivesPurpose
Click “Donate”– Get donations – Voter engagement
Complete web form to sign up to mailing list– Voter engagement – Voter awareness
Click “Create account”– Voter engagement
Click “Log in”– Voter engagement
Supportive user-interaction objectivesPurpose
Click “Get the Facts”To educate and convince people to donate, increase engagement or improve awareness
Click “Get the Latest”To educate and convince people to donate, increase engagement or improve awareness
Click “Get Involved”To educate and convince people to donate, increase engagement or improve awareness

Example 3: Treehouse

Treehouse Treehouse is a site that provides online web design courses. Let’s see how objectives-based design is achieved in this example.

High-level objective
Increase the number of new Treehouse users
Primary user-interaction objectivePurpose
Click on “Free Trial”Increase the number of new users
Supportive user-interaction objectivesPurpose
Click “How it works”Convince users to sign up
Click on “Features”Convince users to sign up
Click on “Pricing”Address a potential concern about costs

Example 4: Invision

Invision We can see the same design pattern we saw on Treehouse’s site on Invision’s home page.

High-level objective
Increase the number of new Invision users
Primary user-interaction objectivePurpose
Click on “Get Started Free” or “Sign Up Free”Increase the number of new users
Supportive user-interaction objectivesPurpose
Click “Learn More”Convince users to sign up
Click “Tour”Convince users to sign up
Click “Customers”Convince users to sign up
Click “Blog”Give people insights about the people behind the company
Click “Enterprise”Convince a specific group of users to sign up
Send questions using the live chat widgetAllows the company to address concerns that prevent a potential user from signing up

Example 5: Keep SA Real

Keep SA Real Keep SA Real is an online store that sells apparel.

High-level objective
Sell SA Real products
Primary user-interaction objectivePurpose
Click “Browse Shop” button or “Shop” linkShow people what they can buy
Supportive user-interaction objectivesPurpose
Click “About”Provide potential buyers information that can help them make a purchasing decision
Click “Blog”Provide potential buyers insights about the company selling the products
Click “Contact”Allows the company to address concerns that are preventing potential buyers from making a purchase

Implementing Objectives-driven Design

We have gone over the basics of objectives-driven design as well as a few examples where we can see the idea in action. Now, let’s go over some of the things you can do in order to use the concept in your projects.

Integrate an Objectives Identification Phase in Your Design Process

A good project workflow should always start by identifying key objectives. And when doing so, give it the time it deserves. Make the identification phase an official part of the process and have guidelines that will help you tease out objectives.

Then get sign-off from all the people involved so that everyone’s on the same page. Write down the key objectives and regularly refer to them. Use them to back up your design and development decisions.

If you need some ideas for this, read the following:

Use Objectives-driven Design Methods to Your Advantage

There are many tricks-of-the-trade techniques you can use to help you design with objectives in mind. Most of them will help you better arrange your layouts in order to emphasize on your key objectives. Here are some design techniques and concepts that help with objectives-driven design:

Keep It Simple

A basic principle that should be followed throughout the process of objectives-based design is to keep it simple. Simplicity ensures that we don’t clutter our layouts with things that can derail our users from our key objectives. In addition, too many options can lead to decision-paralysis.

Look back to the examples we discussed to see how keeping it simple works for objectives-driven design. They all have a limited set of actions you can take. These articles on the topic will help you keep things simple:


Having clear objectives of what you want a website to do for you is a critical step towards its success. Once you know what your objectives are, you can design the entire site in a way that helps fulfill them.

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