I have a confession. I’m not the greatest shopper. I especially don’t excel in stores where there are endless racks, jammed full of clothing, shoes that are scattered everyhwere and accessories that are a jumbled mess on any clear surface. It makes it difficult for me to find what I’m looking for, it wastes my time and frustrates me.
So, when I walk into a store where everything is where it should be, isles are labeled clearly and merchandise is layed out well, I’m in heaven. It takes me no time at all to find what I need so I can get on with my day. And, I’m more likely to return.
Your website should be just like that: well organized, clearly labeled and simple to use. Here are some tips to help you get it that way.
According to Jakob Nielsen, a guru of web usability:
“Poorly designed websites do more than slow users down — they can actually discourage them from using the site. When people can’t find what they need, they often assume the information isn’t available there. In frustration, they go somewhere else.”
The most effective sites give users what they need quickly and easily. When entering a website, visitors have two intentions: to find information and to complete a task.
Here are five ways to get you started to having a well organized website.
1. Use your home page to its full potential
Your home page is the most important page on your website. More visitors land here than on any other page. That makes it prime real estate, so treat it well. Don’t cram it with words that will overwhelm your visitors (few people actually like to read online, they prefer to scan). Your home page should contain four key features:
- a directory of the site’s content (called a navigation menu)
- a summary of your news/promotions
- a search feature
- a task (eg. newletter sign up).
2. Put things where they belong
There are certain sections that visitors expect to find on any given website. These typically include: About, Services (or Products) and Contact. The rest depends upon your type of business and your visitors’ needs. They could include a gallery of your work, success stories and testimonials, blog, store, etc.
3. Label your pages
Your site’s page headings should match the navigation menu title. If your navigation menu says Services, your page heading should say Services; not Our Services, not Great Services, not Products and Services. This is the time when matchy matchy IS a good thing.
4. Put your navigation menu where visitors expect to find it
Visitors expect to find the navigation either along the top of the web page or along the left side. It’s a fact. Don’t make your visitors search to find your navigation menu. Some web designers love to put it on the right side, or in the middle of the page. Usability experts (who test actual websites with actual users) KNOW that visitors really don’t like this.
5. Help your visitors know where they are
Back to the shopping analogy. I love those maps in shopping malls that show you where you are in relation to your surroundings (Google Maps does this too). Visitors to your website should never feel lost. Three easy ways to do this are:
Use a breadcrumb trail. Named for the way Hansel marked the pathway so he and Gretel could find their way back home, a breadcrumb trail on your website shows visitors the path they took to get to where they are now. It also shows them how to get back to where they were. I have one on my website, look up at the top of the page.
Highlight navigation menu items. That means, if you are in Services, the Services tab on your navigation menu will be highligted, by either changing colour or being bolded (or both). It’s an effective visual cue for visitors.
Include a Home button. This provides a quick way for visitors to return to the home page. You can use a home button in your navigation menu, or have your company’s logo image on your site clickable to return to the home page (or both).
How do you organize your website? I’d love to hear some of the ways you help your visitors find what they need or complete a task. Use the comments box below and join the conversation.