I've got a simple web page from which my users can install software. It's a 2-step process so they must click on two different links (No, I cannot make it a 1-step process).


Short paragraph goes here telling the user what to do and what the first link does.


Short paragraph goes here telling about the second step and explaining why it is needed.


None of my users appear to be smart enough (or interested enough) to read the instructions, so they immediately click on the top link, let the install run, and then call me asking why it doesn't work. They do not read the directions and do not click on the second link.

What can I do from a formatting/UI design standpoint to get them to read the instructions and click on the 2nd link?

Admittedly, my page is pretty plain and boring, but there are only 3 or 4 short sentences in each paragraph of instructions.

  • I'm assuming that what happens is the user clicks on the first button, and then also has to do some other stuff (run the download, enter some information) and then GO BACK and click on the second link. Is that the problem? Commented Nov 5, 2010 at 20:23
  • @DJClayworth: Yes, that's the problem.
    – Stewbob
    Commented Nov 5, 2010 at 21:09
  • Can you modify the installer so that it tells the user to go back and click on step 2 if it detects that they haven't yet?
    – Rahul
    Commented Nov 5, 2010 at 21:41
  • @Rahul: Nope, I don't have any control over the installer on this one. :(
    – Stewbob
    Commented Nov 6, 2010 at 1:03
  • It may be easier to think of how to present this to your users if they (and we) knew what the two steps are. Could you tell us a bit more about it? (Also, it's not a matter of being smart enough, but of wanting to complete the task as soon as possible. How many times have you slammed Next, Next, I Agree, Next, Finish though an installer without reading the instructions?) Commented Nov 9, 2010 at 5:11

6 Answers 6


Nothing. People don't read directions. ;o)

I'd suggest making the 2 step process a major visual. something like this:

Your intro paragraph here

|                               |
| this is a two step process!   |
|                               |
| 1) [button]                   |
|                               |
| 2) [button]                   |
|                               |
  • I like your first sentence, but as a solution, I like what @Tucker provided MUCH better. Still worth a +1 though. Commented Nov 5, 2010 at 20:29

There are a lot of things you could try, here's a simple one:

Only provide the first step on the page, when it's clicked take them to another page for step 2. You could also do this on the page showing/hiding layers. Just make sure there's a way to go back/reset.

  • I like your idea, unfortunately I cannot implement it in my situation. I have limited control over that kind of thing.
    – Stewbob
    Commented Nov 5, 2010 at 21:16
  • @Stewbob - Why do you have limited control over the flow? Commented Nov 11, 2010 at 22:15

From what I’ve read in your comments to other answers, users click on a link, then go off and do a bunch of stuff in other windows, then they need to understand and remember that they need to go back to the original window at a certain point and click a second link. You have no way to automatically prompt the user do the second click –no way for the system to know when the first step is completed. Is anyone surprised this doesn’t work? You’re clearly stuck with an inherently sucky design. There is no good solution.

But here’re some mitigations to try:

  • Three or four short sentences per step sounds like way too much reading to me. I suspect here's what happens: User starts with the first paragraph, which says something like "To start with Fluxomatic 2.0, click the link below. It will download the-" and which point the user tunes out, clicks the link and moves on to the other windows. I understand you probably need to describe to the users how to recognize when the first step is completed, but your instructions may be counter-productive –the longer the text the less likely users read it. Instead of a paragraph per step, put one statement between the two links telling the users when click the second link and eliminate all other instructions. Content should be boiled down to the bare minimum: 1. Click here. 2. Wait for this. 3. Click here. Don't try to tell users why they need each step or the technical machinations of each step. They don't care. They just want to get it working.

  • Glancing at the page, the users may assume the two links represent two alternatives rather than two steps (e.g., default versus custom install, like some installers have), or that the second link is for loading additional crapware (like too many installers have). Make it clear both links are necessary in the link labels. Don’t label them “Install Fritzinger” and “Install Zortlemeizer.” Label them like “Install First Half” and “Install Second Half.” If users are looking at nothing else, they’re looking at the first link. Choose a label that makes it clear that it’s not the complete process.

  • Maybe substitute illustrations for some text? Something users can comprehend at a glance? Maybe employ metaphors, like a bicycle frame for the first step and wheels for the second to suggest both are needed if the user expects to get anywhere.

  • Try to find other places to remind users they need to do both steps. How do users know it’s not working? How do they know how to call you? Can you put a reminder or link for the second step at that point (e.g., on the Tech Support page right below the phone number)?

Did I mention you’re stuck with a sucky design?

  • Thanks for the suggestions. You are not kidding about me being stuck with a sucky design. :)
    – Stewbob
    Commented Nov 6, 2010 at 14:55

To me, the most logical place to put the second link is in the installer because that's when it's needed prior to proceeding. The user would

  1. Click on Link 1, it gets the installer going

  2. When ready, the installer prompts the user with a message like "A second click [or a confirmation, or whatever you want to call it] is needed before proceeding.

  3. At this point, the user can click on a "Take Me to Web Page" button, or better yet, the installer would show a countdown timer that is long enough for them to read the message in Step 2, then opens the page automatically.

  4. User is presented with a web page that contains only Link 2.

However, you have already turned down @Tucker's excellent idea due to "limited control", so I'm not sure you'll like this one either. :-)

  • Yep, good suggestion, but I can't use it. Thanks though (+1); that's something to keep in mind for the next time, when I hopefully have more control over the installer.
    – Stewbob
    Commented Nov 6, 2010 at 1:01

If you have to have both links on the same page, a better idea would be to have two columns with big headers of "First Step" and "Second Step". People read left to right then down. They'll see that it's a two step process at a glance.

However, the bare minimum you can do is label your links "First Step" and "Second Step", if they're not already. :-).


intro text: This install WILL fail! here's why...

then explain. the first sentence has to be a completely unavoidable call-to-action.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.