Ever been on a website and failed to find something as simple as a phone number or a particular product you know is there somewhere? Have you ever given up and went somewhere else entirely? From the visitor’s point of view this is frustrating and a waste of time. From the company’s point of view this is a loss of revenue. It is like advertising a building then slamming the door in the visitor’s face or refusing entry because they haven’t found the right door.
We refer to the way information is found on a website as navigation. Navigation is often difficult to get right. Big companies can spend thousands of pounds testing their navigation systems. Although many smaller companies simply don’t have the budget for this kind of exercise, there are less expensive and time consuming ways to make sure your content can be found easily.
The real problem is we are all different. If you ask an employee, a customer and the web designer where a particular chunk of information should be in the navigation, chances are they’ll all answer differently. Some visitors like to punch everything into the search box and find it that way, others will search the main navigation for a particular item that looks closest to the term they are thinking of.
All customers are different. We need to make things easy by ensuring:
- The navigation system isn’t too complicated
- There are multiple ways to get to the main content
- We avoid complicating things with too many options
- A clear, consistent main navigation
- A good search facility
- Links to other relevant information from within pages
- A breadcrumb trail within each page to identify where the visitor is at all times e.g. Home > About us > How we work
It is also important to provide visual clues about where the visitor is within the site with clear, consistent page headings and the use of colour or icons to indicate where they are.
Finally, always test your naviagtion ideas on someone else. The more opinions the better!