The 80/20 rule is one of the most overused principles in business. It also enjoys a rich history.

Around 1904, the Italian engineer and economist Vilfredo Pareto calculated that roughly 80% of the wealth in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. The concept was termed the Pareto Principle.

In 1941, Joseph Juran, an engineer and management consultant, happened upon Pareto’s work. Juran hypothesized that in a similar fashion to life, the causes of business problems were not equally distributed.

Juran applied the idea to some of his quality management projects, and quickly realized that a majority of the problems (the 80%) originated from a minority of causes (the 20%). And so, the 80/20 rule become a part of the corporate lexicon.

The logic behind the Pareto Principle is difficult to ignore: the most far-reaching results can be achieved by focusing on a few highly influential factors. This simple truth has kept the 80/20 rule relevant in nearly every modern field of work, even UX design.

Of course, there’s always the small matter of identifying which fertile areas of work will yield the most gains. This article will explain which 20% of UX design most often delivers the largest ROI.

2. Your Users’ Key Workflows

Every product or website will feature a few key workflows, which are the steps people take to reach their goal.

Say you need a bouquet for that special someone, so you go to an ecommerce flow shop. You’re probably one of thousands of people with that goal, so a primary workflow of this site will be navigating the website to see the flower options, learning more about the options, and then checking out.

Each step in the process is part of the user experience. By observing how people move through each task, you can optimize your UX design to remove friction and make the entire workflow easier.

That’s the secret to successful experience design: you make something that’s not only aesthetically pleasing, but also easy and satisfying to do.

Depending on the complexity of your product, there could be a myriad of ways people will use it. But if you focus on a select number of key experience, the ones that people perform most often, you’ll achieve a bigger lift in engagement numbers.

At that point, the business logic is straightforward. Just think about the ecommerce website. If the key workflows are optimized, then more people will buy flowers, which means you’ll make more money.

The same concept applies to B2B software. The simpler it is to create and send email in a marketing automation system, the more people will use it, which means you’ll make more money.

2. Onboarding

For product companies, onboarding is the most important part of the customer journey. If you can’t teach people to use your application, then you probably won’t have very many users, which means you won’t have a viable product.

Onboarding is essentially a guided tour of your application’s key workflows. And like key workflows, you can utilize UX research techniques like usability testing and task analysis to optimize how your onboarding is structured.

The overarching goal of onboarding is guide people to their “aha!” moment, or the instant where the value of your product becomes overwhelmingly apparent. Once someone has that epiphany, they’re much more likely to continue using your product, because it’s adding value to their lives.

3. Landing Pages

Here’s a best practice that won’t go out of style: if you want better ROI, optimize the areas where conversions happen. In that regard, landing pages are the undisputed heavyweight champion.

Refining the user experience of your landing pages has a lot more to do with content than it does with design. Sure, it always helps if a page is pretty and the images are eye-catching, but it’s the clarity and persuasiveness of the copy that’s going to move people to action.

That’s why it’s vital to make the very first thing people see on the page is a strong value proposition. To write one, do some voice of customer research, define what your audience’s biggest challenges are, and then write a promise of value using your customers’ words.

After your headline, you need to consider your messaging hierarchy, or the order in which certain types of content appear on the page.

Do those two things, and then test. Watch some video records of people interacting with the page using software like Hotjar. Implement some click mapping software to see which messages are most compelling. And then do some more testing.


The 80/20 rule might live forever. There will probably always be a select few factors that exert an almighty influence on the outcomes. Hopefully, this article has given you a better idea of what that magic 20% might be for your UX design projects.