Paths that support user autonomy

Not only is it important to fit the product experience around getting users from point A to point B, but also to make sure that the steps included are, are not one-sided, exploitative steps.

You want to design paths with steps that propel the users forward rather than act as an obstacle course.

So from a Path Design perspective, it's important to analyze each step in the critical pathway and ask: "Is this step actually contributing to the user's ultimate goal?" and "Is it being framed in a way that lets the user know that this is contributing to their ultimate goal?"

If the answer to either those questions is no, the step must either be removed entirely or delayed until it can be framed as contributing to the super-outcome that the user desires.

This is especially crucial in the early stages of product use. Products lose the most users in the first few months of their becoming customers (starting churn). Early product paths need to nurture relationships by putting user progress first.

Here are some useful step analysis questions to consider when designing a path:

  • Can we remove this step?
  • Can we delay this step?
  • Can we reorder the process so that this step makes more sense to the user?
  • Can we better nest this step in the hierarchy that ties back to the super-outcome?

This is the heart of Path Design, largely unrepresented in UX literature.