Do you remember Choose Your Own Adventure novels? It always seemed to me there were too many endings that resulted in sudden death. I used to keep my thumb on the page I was on and flip through all the potential choices to find the one I liked best before continuing, trying to extend the story for as long as possible.
It struck me recently that websites are like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. The experience is different for every visitor, every time, depending on the choices made.
But in fact, it would be truer to say the internet itself is the novel and your website just a page: your links and calls to action represent the different options the protagonist must choose from to propel the story forward.
Your visitors are the heroes, of course, and on a noble quest: for knowledge, for the perfect outfit, for dinner. They have a dilemma they need to solve and it takes them on a unique, meandering path across the expanses of the world wide web.
You and your website are characters, and only feature in the narrative because you have something the hero needs, like a new pair of shoes or the recipe for satay sauce. The good news is, once you’re featured you can influence the path the story takes and even instigate a major plot twist.
How? The quality of your design and content provides our hero with the information or interest he’s looking for, your user experience and structure guide him to continue his journey to unexplored regions that contain even greater rewards. You become his trusted sidekick (the Samwise to his Frodo).
Through its structure, appearance and substance, your website works in ways that either appeal and draw in your heroic visitor (almost instantly) or cause them to go back a page and try a different option. Remember that for many web users - the shorter the story the better. They want to achieve something specific and cut straight to living happily ever after.
A website is not a static object that’s read from start to finish, so it's surprising to me how many people treat their online presence like a finished story, where the home page is always chapter one.
A website is not a destination, it is an experience.
The question is, are you part of people’s adventure, or another dead end?