A Guide to How Visitors use a web page/site?

Does anyone know of a resource out there which can give answers (based on real testing) to questions like -

  • what navigation do visitors expect and like to use - the traditional nav bar across the top, a floating navigation (maybe vertical), a button which opens navigation items, something else altogether?
  • do users like to scroll through a lot of content or do they prefer things like tabs/accordions or links/anchors?
  • do users expect a site map on every page or do they prefer to navigate to a separate page?

I presume the answers would be different for mobile/tablet/desktop.

Without going on an on, I hope this gives an idea of what I’m after.


Try searching for UX design on the web - ‘User Experience’. You’ll find lots of interesting articles (for example this one - https://usabilitygeek.com/6-laws-of-psychology-for-good-ux-design/) which may help inform the way you build a website.



Thanx for the article Rob, it was an interesting read.

There is no one answer to your questions. The answers depend on your target audience. Tell us more about that audience and we can maybe offer some help.

I’ve no formal training in any of this but I’ve been making commercial sites for 20 years, initially for my own online businesses (some with a TO in the low thousands, some in the hundreds of thousands), then my own and friends and for the last number of years on a commercial basis. I consider my niche to be a good understanding of how a website needs to work, not clever/fancy design.

Thanks robbeattie Yes that link is the sort of thing I’m looking for. Now I know it’s UX design that I’m talking about.

Thanks for the reply TemplateRepo For me It’s not so much what my audience is but rather the basic principles based on what research tells us about how users interact with a web site/page.
Just to give another example of the things which interest me, and which I’m now looking into -

  • is a sidebar a good idea, and if so should it be on the left or the right of the screen

Anyone that offers an answer other than “depends” to such an open ended question is BS’ing you.

Websites are about human interaction, and without first understanding the humans who will be visiting your sites, and why they are visiting, all answers are pure guesswork and massive generalisations.

The 21 year old visiting the website of a nightclub will want a totally different experience to a 70 year old visiting a sewing-bee site.

Great question and topic. As is pointed out above there is no right answer (I believe this is true). A quick google will yield all sorts of varied answers, opinions, and studies. Imho one could chase their tail endlessly trying to sort out some magic formula. Personally I often look to the big players in a given industry or field to see what they are doing. Who are the influencers in the market for which you develop? The ones with the huge budgets. While they are not necessarily always immediately effective with their solutions one can rest assured that they will become effective because they have the resources to do so. Not sure what sort of site your working on…but I would look for answers in those that have successful sites in that space. Best of luck.

Thanks all for very helpful replies. I’m working on a business-to-business site for a food manufacturer.

The issue of audience is an important one I agree, I was hoping for the Ten Commandments (backed by real testing/research) for web/site page setup.

I know Content is King but it would be good to know the “rules” for presenting that content.

Years ago, before UX - certainly before I ever heard of it as a “thing” which is pretty much just on this discussion - I asked Google whether sliders were a good thing for presenting a range of products (with the idea of users scanning through the slider and clicking on the products they liked which would direct them to an action such as buying or requesting more info)

I forget which site it was, but they said that research showed that users may look at the first one, two or maybe three slides, and then lose interest and leave the page.

It’s that sort of thing I was hoping to find - but I guess that presumes that there is an authority out there which has the credit to be able to say Thou Shall and Thou Shall Not.

Thanks again for the feedback everyone.

There are general usability guidelines, which don’t much change regardless of audience/purpose etc. Most of these covers what is mostly obvious, but they can be helpful if you are not sure.

Slides are a good example of where, in my opinion, habit, a lack of planning and often appeasing a client rule the roost.

I don’t like sliders, at least as headers on pages anyway. I stopped using them by choice ten or so years ago. My logic was "If a message is important enough to be the very first thing a new visitor to site will see, you don’t want to then be immediately diluting that message by by replacing it with other messages every 5 seconds.

With some sliders you have one message over some sliding images, and the sliding images re-enforce the message, I’m cool with these. But those slides where everything; text, links and images changes, change I don’t like. But, I do loads of them as clients want them!

In my opinion slides came about because they added some movement to pages that until this point were more or less static, except for some dreadful animated GIFs. Nowadays, again my opinion, they are used by people who can’t plan a web page or make a decision on what is the single most important message they want to convey.

As I say though, none of this stops me using them, as clients love them. Some listen to common sense, most don’t, and on things like this I’ve long since given up trying to educate those clients.

Final comment on slides: When was the last time you landed on a site and waited for all the slides to come and go? There’s your answer!

As for B2B sites, these are a very different beast to B2C, and while I’ve made a few, they are not my forte. The first thing you need to consider is that a lot of your traffic might be desktop not mobile, so that can influence your design. After that, it’s again a case of understanding your audience.

In the last few years two B2B sites come to mind. One was for a chemical manufacturer who white labels commercial and domestic cleaning products. Their audience was buyers in places like tescos etc. I did a bit of research and found that it’s mostly the junior buyers who look over the sites, assess the company then push them up the chain to their bosses, who were typically chemists. So, I made that site to appeal to a younger professional audience whilst not looking garish to an older professional.

Then there was a software maker who needed a site to use as a showcase for their product on a marketing trip the US to present themselves to senior managers. This site was therefore ultra clean, pixel perfect (I hope), minimal clutter and all clearly laid out content.

As I say, in almost all cases your audience will dictate you’re design.

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Maybe this tool can help you: https://appsumo.com/attention-insight/
It is an AI-powered pre-launch heatmap and analysis based on a dataset from eye-tracking studies.
I know it’s not perfect (in fact the target and other details will affect the design), but it’s a lifetime deal and you can give it a try.

From the people who have been been practicing, researching, and teaching user experience for over 20 years

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Thanks pugwash


Exactly what I was looking for.

There must be a lot of Rapidweavers could do with a resource like this.

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