Why engagement is a sucky goal for a landing page

One drawback of freelancing as a content writer is that you often get brought into projects somewhere in the middle, after the assigned writer has realized there just isn’t any effing time to get everything done.

Hey look! Users are easily distracted. Make whatever you want them to do really easy for them to do, or they won't do it.

This happened to me recently. The landing page had already been designed, and all I had to do was fill in the lorem ipsum. (Another horrendously wrong way to make a website, for the record.) It was a complicated project, and the team’s first time working on a digital project that large.

One thing about me: I ask “why”. A lot. All the time. About everything. I had the blessing/curse of parents who actually played along with that game when I was a kid and by the time public schools tried to force it out of me, it was too late.

I’m the asshole who always wants to know why you did it like that.

That’s me.

I found out pretty fast that the “why” of the design on this project was “engagement”.

It took further digging to learn the “why” of the campaign as a whole: sell product.

In order to buy the product, the user had to:

1. Click on a banner.

2. Watch a Flash intro animation on a landing site.

3. Wait for another intro animation for each section of the landing site.

4. Find what they actually want and click on it.

5. Find what they actually want again on a separate, completely different website.

6. Contact a sales representative or order online, depending on the item.

You can guess how likely most people would be to get through this whole process and actually buy anything. Yet, it was described as “an engaging user experience,” which sounds really smart, so everyone went along with it.

I’d like to share two important things I learned from working on this project:

Complicated does not equal engaging.

The goal of the design should always be the same as the goal of the project.

To ad people: don’t get distracted by buzzwords. Engagement means nothing more than getting people to pay attention. And there is no one function or part of a website that is the “user experience part.” The whole thing is the user experience. All websites are user experiences. Any time anything is used by anyone, that is a user experience. User experience design simply refers to they way we choose to think of what we’re making – with the person who will be using it in mind.

If the ultimate goal is to sell product, then buying it should be the easiest thing for the user to do. Everything else is secondary.

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