Thought Sequence – why it rules design 

I was working with a designer and explained, in a nutshell, what a thought sequence is and some ideas on how we could follow it in the new designs for a page.  My nutshell version felt too compressed, so here’s my augmented explanation:

There are 2 principles that will be helpful in understanding the thought sequence:

  1. The Micro-Yes
  2. User Experience Design


Principle 1 – The Micro-Yes

I learned years ago about the Micro-Yes from MECLABS articles like this one, videos, and trainings.  The micro-yeses are the conclusions you want your users to arrive at as they progress along the sales funnel.  These micro-yeses eventually take the user to the macro-yes, which would be signing up, purchasing, etc.

The first micro-yes occurs when a user lands on a page and, often without realizing it, answers the first question – “Did I arrive on the page I intended to land on?”  They look for several elements to verify where they are, such as:

  • page title
  • image
  • navigation

Once they conclude they are where they wanted to land, they seek to answer a new question – “Is where I intended to land going to give me the information I want?”

There are various ways of facilitating this answer in the mind of the user depending on your product.  If you sell your basement apartment on AirBnB, you’d want to show nice pictures of the apartment, amenities and things to do in the area.  I like to use these sorts of things to support the true value proposition of your product or service.  One of the critical elements of a true value proposition is how your offering is exclusive, or “what they can’t get anywhere else” – Dr. McGlaughlin “The Marketer as Philosopher“.

Now that they want to stay at your basement apartment, they need to see what the rates and availability are;  To do this, they need to select dates.  This leads to another micro-yes question – “can I stay at this basement apartment?”.  Once they know they can and if they still want to at that point they can move on through the purchase process.

Principle 2 – User Experience Design, simple rules

In user experience (UX) you aim to provide every option to the user that they could possibly want (within company guidelines).  It’s a simple rule and is of course a simplified answer, but you get the idea.

The job of an optimizer is to not only provide the user experience, but to test into conversion improving experiences.  How I have seen it work best so far, is focusing on 80% of a target segment and making sure their wants/micro-yeses have just the right amount of friction so the user does not have to think about anything other than those micro-yeses.

so there is  “UX” and there is “UX + improved conversion rates”.

There are many facets to user experience, but when it comes to most websites, it stays pretty simple.

The Thought Sequence – what your design lives or dies by

The thought sequence is a conversation that is taking place between you and your customer (notice I said “you” and not “your website”).  You are communicating with your customer through your website and you are answering these micro-yeses for them in the way you present the information.

What happens when the title and hero image for your page are relevant, but below the fold?  You are not telling the user what they want to know first, and are experiencing very high bounce rates in most cases.  This is similar to seeing someone you are attracted to, and kissing them, instead of introducing yourself and starting a conversation.

What if you got the title and hero image right, but have the images and description for the apartment in the header and footer as links?  Still high bounce rates.

let’s say you have title, hero image, and the images of your apartment in a flowing eye-path across/down the page.  Since they answered the next micro-yes in the affirmative, they begin interacting with the date picker tool if they can find it.

If it is not flowing down the same path as the title, images and descriptions have all taken, the user has to leave the conversation and figure out how to communicate with you all over again.  They then begin hunting for the right element and finally finding it in the navigation, or above the title, or in a side-bar to the left…

Can people find an element that is not in the best of places? yes.  After-all, eventually running around kissing people will result in one of them responding positively… which your sore cheeks will be grateful for.  Do people want to hunt for things? only on easter.  If they don’t want to do something, they wont.

The point here is, “works” and “works well” are vastly different things.


This is the thought sequence – The conversation between you and your users through your website.  It is a combination of micro-yeses and user experience – to foster the conclusions your ideal prospect is seeking to arrive at.

The people you communicate with through your website will unknowingly thank you when you make their lives a little easier by thinking of their thought sequence on your website.  How do they thank you? with an increase in purchases and sign-ups.

Thank you.




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