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Designing web sites to maximize user participation: the #CoreModel approach

Posted on May 2nd, 2015

Make stuff that works – pop-up conference, #makestuffthatworks

NYC UX Acrobatics

05/01/2015 @Loft W, 240 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY

The conference was a highly informative and entertaining look at web site organization to focus on the needs of customers and the goals of the business. The conference was the culmination of a one week off-site by @Netlife, the conference sponsor with home offices in Norway.

Netlife presented their approach which they call the “Core model”. This is both a philosophy of web organization as well as a tool to design the site consistent with this philosophy.  Other presentations were made on a variety of topics include #WearableTech,  successful products as a story, and how to make blog posts go #Viral.

This post will concentrate on the #CoreModel. Subsequent posts will highlight other presentations at the conference.

Martha Lyngnes talked about NetLife’s emphasis is on creating web sites that focus on the intersection of the user’s tasks and the company’s goals. The intersection might be the purchase/sale of specific products or finding/disseminating  information. This intersection constitutes the core content which the key page. Next, the emphasis is on which paths lead to this core content page and how to makes these in-coming paths as efficient as possible on delivering traffic.  This is followed by an analysis of the output paths once the core content has been delivered. The main points of the core model are:

  1. Where users solve their tasks & business matches goals
  2. Paths are more important hierarchies
  3. No dead ends

The construction of the core content is done by a working group with the characteristics:

  1. Work in pairs
  2. Identify core pages
  3. Inward paths – how to get there
  4. Core content
  5. Forward paths – what’s next?
  6. Prioritize elements

They use the following worksheet to insure they have considered all these elements:


The larger discussion of the web site includes

  1. Facilitator
  2. Your team: UX, design, developers, ….
  3. People with expert knowledge of the content
  4. Content owners
  5. People who should collaborate
  6. People with strong opinions

The core should be the same on all devices, but the priorities may affect how items are shown on a small screen.

Design the home page last.

This process is in contrast to what often takes place in the design of the home page. Real estate on the page is divided by company organization without regard to the needs of most users and the web commerce business goals. This leads to long lists of options which are displayed using menu carousels. This design leads to a cluttered page which is hard to navigate or filled with irrelevant information. As a result the vast majority of the pages on the site are never be visited by uses and sales may be missed.

Anders Waage Nilsen & Torstein Norendal further amplified this idea by considering how the ideas derived when determining the core content can feed back into the way the business operates. They start with the idea that company strategy statements are often unusable for the following reasons:

  1. out of date,
  2. hard to understand
  3. lack of involvement (top down)
  4. too simple 1 dimensional
  5. unresponsive
  6. lacks an edit button – focus is intentions, not better decisions

They then contrasted the strategy document with the content-driven approach for the core model and asked whether the outputs (core qualities, core challenges, user tasks, business goals and how they are addressed) could be a structure around which the company could build a story about itself.

Naturally, there is much more to designing a web page than just executing the core model. Other speakers talked about specific aspects of creating a successful web page.

Jostein Magnussen emphasized the importance of creating a custom page for the client that brands the company, matches the specific business goals, takes full advantage of the specific needs of the users, and matches the “digital maturity” of the company. He cited an example in which a Norwegian bank uniquely branded itself by emphasizing its location in a fjord.

Kjell-Morten Bratsberg Thorsen offered many suggestions for site that are not explicitly selling products and therefore cannot use many of the conventional metrics such as sales conversion rate.

Since we still want to know the effectiveness of web site, he recommended three strategies.

  1. Create a link that you can click even if you are not selling. Have users click to get information so you can monitor the click through rate.
  2. Use time on page or scroll length as a sign of interest. This is like an inverse conversion rate.  (he doesn’t like this option)
  3. Ask the user: a #popup asks why you came to the site and whether you accomplished your task: self report conversion rate (this is his preferred method)

But popups are hard to do correctly.

  1. The popup needs to be as soon as task done, but not before. Too soon and the user has not finished their task. Too late and the user closes the window before the popup appears.
  2. One could track mouse movements to anticipate when the user completes the task and then display the popup. This is difficult since users move the mouse for a variety of reasons. Tracking completion time might be another possibility.
  3. One could ask if you want to participate later or immediately display the popup in lower right corner.

The bottom line is that people hate popup surveys so one can usually expect only a 1 to 2 percent response rate.

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