The way websites are organized will forever drive me crazy. I really don’t want to read through dozens of links splattered down a vertical menu–links obviously placed with no rhyme or reason. Well, aside from the fact they are all in a straight line… sometimes. I also don’t like being overwhelmed with a multitude of text–here, there, and everywhere–all begging for me to read it at the same time. And I really don’t want to try to figure out why someone thought it was a good idea to hide sub-pages inside a page, inside a page, inside another page… well you get the idea. I just can’t wait for the treasure hunt!!!
Perhaps I’m a bit OCD about organizing. Maybe I’m asking too much. I think of a good site navigation like a good map. I can look at it without much effort and figure out where I need to go. If it is not well-organized, I really don’t want to take the time to figure it out… after all–it is my time that I’m spending on your site. So… what are the basics?
Generally, I like to find About Us on the left and Contact Us on the right. About Us is a great place to put things like History, Staff, Board of Directors, etc., and Contact Us is where your directions and locations go. I save the middle for all the great stuff. Sometimes it takes some thinking to figure out how to organize the many many pages you have for your visitors to peruse. But… I promise you that more of those pages will get a second look if you make your thought process easy to understand. For example, if your site has a lot of products or services (or both) that you offer, group all of the products under Products and all of the services under Services. That’s easy to understand, right?
I know you think that one special thing just has to be on the main menu because it needs a lot of attention, but I bet you didn’t think about having your site designer make a special spot for it on the home page. If you put that item where it belongs logically on the menu and make some real estate for it on your homepage dashboard, you start to look really smart! Those who like finding things on the menu will love you, and those who ignore menus and look at the eye-pleasing stuff both end up happy.
When I take our clients through the process of creating the navigation for their website, I ask them to consider what they would like people to notice when they come to the home page. We create a list of everything (grouping similar items where possible) and add it to the “nav” as featured areas on the home page. After we iron out where everything is going, I leave it up to the graphic artist for the site to make everything come to life in a way that neither I nor the client could have imagined.
I’ve got a few good navigation examples for you. Here is a finished site nav, and here is the final home page mock-up and secondary page we sent to programming. Here is another site nav, home page, and secondary page. As you can see from these navigation charts, there is a lot in the menus, but the important stuff is represented graphically on the page. Can you imagine if these sites were one dreadfully long list of page links?
I rest my case. A website that doesn’t make sense to your visitors will only frustrate them and leave them wondering why they visited. And that means higher bounce rates for you.