Blog

May 14, 2012

Architecture & Navigation

When we look for information online, we all have an end goal in mind. Even before you started to read this article, the chances are your goal was either: to ‘check the latest on this blog’, or to find out ‘how to correctly set up your website’s navigation’.

After a couple of seconds of scanning this article, maybe you’ve already read some parts, you will have asked yourself whether the information you’re seeing is actually relevant to your goal. If you, or ‘the visitor’, cannot find what they are looking for in a split second they will leave – something I can assure you is as certain as death and taxes! The importance of providing the correct information – ‘when’ and ‘where’ – is the single most important task with designing websites.

It’s Your Shop front

No matter what your sector, try and imagine you have a shop window on Oxford Street… Okay, sounds exiting, but what are you going to put in it? You could fill the window with your logo, a huge phone number or a generic stock photo…

Instead, list out what you want visitors to do in order of importance:

  1. Send an enquiry
  2. Join the mailing list
  3. Read about a product
  4. Subscribe to twitter

Think about the visitor and what they will need to know before they convert. For example, ‘getting people subscribed to your mailing list’, you will need to explain the benefits of the newsletter and how often it will be sent. Simplicity is the key; make things obvious and get to the point quickly.

Navigation

The majority of designers will see navigation as being flat and linear, in truth that’s completely wrong – the navigation is the sales funnel on your website, starting from the home page (the shop window) and leading through the key pages to convince the visitor to send an email or buy a product.

Start Here -> Company information -> The Product -> convincer -> Enquire/Buy

Once we’ve got this process we just have to adapt it for the navigation, whilst thinking about how to provide this process to the visitor through a linear navigation:

Start | Company Bio | Our Products | Reach Us

The home page, AKA the shop window, draws visitors into the internal pages or to convert to a smaller goal like a newsletter subscription. You can also use the home page to nudge the visitor through to the company bio page and from there to the product page with call to action links on each article.

User-Testing

What is the easiest way to do a sanity check on this process? A cheap, well-proven technique is that old game of Word Association; take the potential labels you could use on the design and ask them to say the first thing that comes to mind. For example, you say “products” and they might say “price, information or stock”

Looking back at our navigation there are a couple of things we can do to improve it.

Home | About Us | Our Products | Contact Us

Even this can be simplified further ‘us/our’ can be removed completely without changing the meaning of the phrase.

Home | About | Products | Contact

 

When we look for information online, we all have an end goal in mind. Even before you started to read this article, the chances are your goal was either: to ‘check the latest on this blog’, or to find out ‘how to correctly set up your website’s navigation’.

After a couple of seconds of scanning this article, maybe you’ve already read some parts, you will have asked yourself whether the information you’re seeing is actually relevant to your goal. If you, or ‘the visitor’, cannot find what they are looking for in a split second they will leave – something I can assure you is as certain as death and taxes! The importance of providing the correct information – ‘when’ and ‘where’ – is the single most important task with designing websites.

It’s Your Shop front

No matter what your sector, try and imagine you have a shop window on Oxford Street… Okay, sounds exiting, but what are you going to put in it? You could fill the window with your logo, a huge phone number or a generic stock photo…

Instead, list out what you want visitors to do in order of importance:

1.Send an enquiry

2.Join the mailing list

3.Read about a product

4.Subscribe to twitter

Think about the visitor and what they will need to know before they convert. For example, ‘getting people subscribed to your mailing list’, you will need to explain the benefits of the newsletter and how often it will be sent. Simplicity is the key; make things obvious and get to the point quickly.

Navigation

The majority of designers will see navigation as being flat and linear, in truth that’s completely wrong – the navigation is the sales funnel on your website, starting from the home page (the shop window) and leading through the key pages to convince the visitor to send an email or buy a product.

Start Here -> Company information -> The Product -> convincer -> Enquire/Buy

Once we’ve got this process we just have to adapt it for the navigation, whilst thinking about how to provide this process to the visitor through a linear navigation:

Start | Company Bio | Our Products | Reach Us

The home page, AKA the shop window, draws visitors into the internal pages or to convert to a smaller goal like a newsletter subscription. You can also use the home page to nudge the visitor through to the company bio page and from there to the product page with call to action links on each article.

User-Testing

What is the easiest way to do a sanity check on this process? A cheap, well-proven technique is that old game of Word Association; take the potential labels you could use on the design and ask them to say the first thing that comes to mind. For example, you say “products” and they might say “price, information or stock”

Looking back at our navigation there are a couple of things we can do to improve it.

Home | About Us | Our Products | Contact Us

Even this can be simplified further ‘us/our’ can be removed completely without changing the meaning of the phrase.

Home | About | Products | Contact