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By Doreen Martel

The Pareto Principle and website design

Today we’re living in a marketing environment that demands an online presence. To reach this goal, more companies than ever are turning to designers to create both a desktop and a mobile version of their websites. Creating a mobile website is challenging because you have to identify the most used pages or design elements before you complete the design. In part, this is where using the Pareto Principle comes into play.

What is the Pareto Principle?

In 1896, Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, published a paper, Cours d’économie politique (Course of Political Economy), which showed that 20 percent of Italy’s population owned 80 percent of the land. The name Pareto Principle was recommended by Joseph M. Juran, a management consultant. The Pareto Principle has become more commonly known as the 80/20 rule.

Understanding the application of the Pareto Principle

Regardless of what field you investigate, there are multiple ways to demonstrate the 80/20 rule. For example, many studies have shown that 20 percent of volunteers account for 80 percent of the work accomplished by the group. Industrial accident investigations show that 20 percent of hazards could be potentially responsible for 80 percent of accidents. With software development, 20 percent of bugs are responsible for 80 percent of problems. The predicament for web designers is to understand how the Pareto Principle may help them design a more intuitive website.

Website design and the Pareto Principle

As we all know, website design is complicated and for most visitors, there are target pages that appeal to them. However, when a designer is creating a mobile site, it is nearly impossible to show all the features of a desktop site. Therefore, the designer must determine which features are used most often. When doing so, the designer is looking for a pattern — what pages are visitors using most frequently? This means applying the Pareto Principle: Designers can identify what 80 percent of visitors do in order to determine which pages are most important.

Design features: more Pareto Principle applications

If one assumes 20 percent of website visitors are responsible for 80 percent of traffic and therefore sales, it is important to design a site with these users in mind. An example of this would be a contact form or an order form. If 80 percent of the users of the site are from the United States, it would be helpful to have the default shipping or user address as the United States. This just makes common sense.

Website designers have a monumental task in front of them. Creating a website that is user friendly and attractive to potential buyers means putting focus on the right aspects of that design. Identifying the 20 percent most used features and simplifying the design based on those features is a far better option than worrying about the 80 percent of features that are seldom (if ever) helpful to increasing user satisfaction. Remember, keeping users satisfied is likely to result in better conversion from user to buyer; wasting time working on the least used features will not provide the return on investment designers are looking for. Instead of spending time working on seldom used features, focus on the satisfaction of the bulk of users.

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