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Navigating your website

Part of establishing and managing a site is making sure that the information is easy to find – the design and content are important but with a poor site layout, they are not going to work as well as they should.

In short, navigation is about letting people travel around your site easily to find what they need.

While you may well link to various pages of your site within the content (and I strongly suggest you do!), this is not part of the planned navigation. Navigation is more about menus and major links (such as banners and graphics on landing pages).

For the most effective navigation, it needs to be simple and not offer too many choices so it is worth thinking about what people really want to know when they visit your site and what you want them to know. Once you have refined the key areas, you can put them in as menus and key graphics (either graphics that link to relevant pages or graphics that give the information directly).

Some key data to make easy to find includes:

  1. your contact information
  2. your physical location (especially if you want people to visit you)
  3. delivery information, including costs
  4. hours of operations (if relevant)
  5. what you do (and don’t do in some cases)
  6. prices and related terms (for example are your prices in AUD or euros? do prices include local taxes?)

Don’t be surprised if getting the navigation sorted takes a while – it is important to get right and can involve a number of steps. Once you have a draft navigation planned, I suggest the following actions:

  1. leave it for a a few days and then check if it is simple and effective
  2. test it – think of a question someone might want answered and try finding it through your proposed navigation
  3. ask your web designer and content writer what they think of it – their experience will provide good feedback
  4. get others to test it for you – if they find it confusing or distracting, change it even if it passed all other tests perfectly!
Before you get stressed or give up on your website at this point remember that you can change the navigation later (nothing is set in stone on a website) and good content with lots of informative links will compensate for some navigation weaknesses. You can work with good navigation while you aim for perfection!

This post is part of Word Constructions’ Setting up a website series
1. having a website helps more than you
2. what’s involved in setting up a website?
3. Learn about web hosting
4. Preparing your initial website content
5. Managing website design 101
6. Choosing a web designer
7. Basic web pages

Basic webpages

So now you have a domain name and some hosting, your initial web copy is live and you have a web designer working on the look of your site. But what do you say when the designer asks how  many pages you need or what is to go into the menu?

Planning the content of a site is only part of the story – you also need to decide how to divide it into page-sized chunks that people will find useful. You could write all the web content in one block and then divide it up, but I have found it more effective to decide what needs to be covered and how to group the information before actually putting the information together.

So the absolute basic pages you’ll find on most websites are:

  1. ‘home page’ is the first page seen under your main URL so it needs to welcome and captivate people
  2. ‘about us’ – gives some information about the business itself and the people behind it
  3. ‘contact us’ – gives a form and/or contact details so people can get in touch with you. This really is a necessity for building trust and having people act on your content
  4. ‘services’ or ‘products’ – a one page list of items is the absolute minimum to let people know what is on offer. This can be expanded to various pages about types of services through to a complete shopping cart for products.
Beyond these basics, you can choose to add any of the following as well:
  1. testimonials
  2. faqs (which stands for frequently asked questions and form s a good resource for site visitors)
  3. links
  4. blog
  5. articles or fact sheets
  6. useful downloads (e.g. forms, instructions, diagrams)
  7. discussion forums
  8. helpdesk or ticket system for support
  9. various tools such as calculators and apps
  10. surveys, polls and quizzes to offer fun and interest or provide information

 

This post is part of Word Constructions’ Setting up a website series
1. having a website helps more than you
2. what’s involved in setting up a website?
3. Learn about web hosting
4. Preparing your initial website content
5. Managing website design 101
6. Choosing a web designer

Making your blog easy to use

Doing some research this week, I’ve been to a large number of blogs but one in particular stood out and inspired a post from me 🙂 This blog has extremely long posts (even longer than those yellow-backed-sales letter-web pages!) which require a lot of scrolling – the home page is just one post! There is nothing else – no about us page, no list of previous posts or categories, not contact details.

Blogs simple structureI found it very frustrating (as I wanted to find some specific answers like what the blog was about without reading multiple essays!) It was also very strange to not see any of the common elements we’re used to for navigating a blog.

So it raises the question – what do you expect to find in the structure of a blog?

Lint & lollies in your website?

Have you ever seen the lint, lolly wrappers and old (hopefully unused!) tissues in the bottom of a handbag due for a clean out?

Lea uses that analogy for websites – many have too much old clutter that is hard to find, but are greatly improved by a tidy up. I like the analogy and it reminded me of a particular website.

The AvSuper website was old when I first started helping the fund with their communications. Initially, I left the site alone and made corrections and updates as required. Even I had trouble finding things on the site and much of it was even repeated on various pages. It really was like a handbag that hadn’t been cleaned out in a long time.

Once we reached the point of having the look refreshed, I was then able to reorganise the information and make the site more user-friendly. My main priorities were:

  • make information easy to find through simple navigation
  • have information on the site only once (creating a smaller site to search, manage and update) and use hyperlinks to share it
  • keep things simple and not overwhelm people with unnecessary pages and information

So how long is it since you cleaned out your website? Is there a lot of useless information still there that could be deleted? Do you need a refreshed look or some content changes?

PS Of course, this just reminds me I need to make time reviewing my site, too!