Speedy and Intuitive Navigation is Critical for a Successful Website
The purpose of every website is to stimulate action from the reader. In many cases it is to sell something. The reader can possibly order online, call for an appointment, or come to your shop with a coupon. Yet not every website is developed to sell something. But it does have a distinct purpose and should inspire a desired action from your reader.
Before developing a website you should sit down and think about what it will do for you and the reader. Will it sell a product? Will it sell a service? Will it provide useful content as its main purpose? Will it offer users a sense of community? You may offer both products and services and deliver useful content and provide a community – the question is – do your visitors understand clearly what it is that you have to offer them?
Navigation is critical when developing and planning your site. The layout lets viewers easily determine how to get from page to page and from product to order form. If it is difficult to navigate, then it will discourage visitors from returning and it will frustrate them. Just like in a brick and mortar store, you may never get a second chance to make a good impression on the web.
One way to start the navigation thought process is to think like your viewer. If possible, consult with users during the development of your website. Go and take a look at the competition. How easy is it to navigate their site? Are load times quick? Can I understand all the pictures and graphics? Is the menu intuitive? Do all the links work?
Here are terms to help you build a website that makes navigation a customer friendly process:
Toolbar/Menu- Typically a horizontal navigational bar running across the top of a web page enable the user to easily jump directly to specific departments or pages.
Icons- Small pictures or vignettes that designate and link to different areas on your site. This is an easy way to add interest and simplify navigation when used sparingly. Choose icon images carefully so that users will intuitively know what they mean.
Search engine- A search tool that enables viewers to pull up specific documents or products by key words or phrases.
Pop-up/Drop-Down menus- Allows viewers to choose from multiple options. Lists the items they want to view or purchase.
Frames- A design format that allows multiple pages (each with distinct URLs) to be viewed on a single screen. However, some viewers dislike frames because they divide the viewing areas and limit some of their navigational control.
“Most Popular Areas” listing- Shows new visitors what your top viewed pages are.
Glossary- Offers a brief explanation of terms found on your site.
Site Map- A fully expanded listing of the features in hierarchical order.
Image Maps- Large clickable graphics and pictures, sometimes making up the entire home page, that allows users to “click and go” to certain areas of the site. Sometimes image maps have very slow load times which can be customer unfriendly.
If your visitors grasp what you’re talking about and see links that help them move with ease around your website, then they will stay longer and come back more frequently. So for your website to be profitable, and that’s what being in business is all about, the viewer must be comfortable with getting information and taking action. The value of customer friendly site navigation then becomes quite evident.