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Ognjen Regoje

I make things that run on the web (mostly).
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Understanding users' intentions and expectations

One of the hardest aspects of working on a startup is figuring out the users’ intention or aim. Once you consider the aim you can make sure that you fulfill expectations that result from it.

I’ve especially noticed its effect on internet marketing and product design.

Internet marketing

The targetting and the copy need to consider the users’ aim. Different aims lead to different expectations that the product must satisfy.


Phrasing in search terms can convey different aims. While the words themselves can seem superficially similar the aim might be significantly different.

Targetting vague terms such as book design would defintely reach a wider audience but that audience will have a much wider range of aims. They might be looking for the history, or examples, or they might to do one themselves. The term itself doesn’t tell you anything about what the user wants to do.

In my opinion it’d be best to avoid those since the quality of traffic would be low — unless very affordable.


Once the ads are targetted well enough to reach users with the correct intention, care must be taken that the copywriting matches the users’ aim and creates the correct expectations.

Different copies create different expectations. An overly general or ambiguous text like Tools for book design can either create the expectation that the user will see physical tools used in making and binding books or software for creating layouts.

So, even if you get the targetting right you can end up creating an incorrect expectation.

Capture the users’ attention by matching their aim, and then create the correct expectation.


The product must of course deliver on the created expectation. Within the product we have to think about aims and expectations from two different perspectives.

Firstly, we need to understand what are the intentions of users’ actions. You might consider this simple, and follow the personas, goals and aims template and you’d be right if know precisely the type of user you’re targetting. However, that’s not clear when you have to figure out who your target market is and how to best serve them. It becomes very difficult. Doubly so when running a platform that attracts to a very wide userbase.

For instance, your users might keep switching to table view. You might think that it’s because the users want the page to load faster but they’re in fact corporate buyers and use it compare prices.

Perhaps every order has messages exchanged and the feature is considered a success. But in fact the product doesn’t capture crucial delivery details and the users have to make due by finding it out through messaging.

Secondly, we need to be very clear with the expectations that the product creates. There might be a mismatch between the actual purpose of the product and the expectations it creates. These might be simple user interface issues that may result from the lack or over-use of jargon or ambiguous phrasing (a button labelled “Continue” for instance). But it may be the result of incorrect operations (for example calling a customer to confirm delivery date but not calling when at their doorstep). These can be especially pronounced and dangerous if they’re part of the users’ first experience.

For instance, a button labelled “Continue” in Cart page redirecting to an Order Placed page. The user wouldn’t expect “Continue” to actually place an order but to go to an intermediate confirmation step.

Now, I’ve mostly dealt with these two aspects but of course they exist in other parts of the business. For example, in operations if the user needs to have the goods delivered within a day and you don’t understand that. Or in customer service, if the user is upset that the goods aren’t there in a day and you don’t understand why is it that they needed them so quickly.

The users’ aims and expectations must be aligned throughout the process for a positive experience.