Navigation in All Website Aspects

Great content is only good if people can find it.  Some thought towards navigation is always necessary in any internet project.  This means social networking sites, blogs, wikis, traditional sites, forums, etc.  Make sure that all your online efforts provide an easy way to access information.

Most of us know that website navigation is important (look at all these articles).  Navigation doesn’t end with just the website.  Any content driven media online should provide convenient ways for finding desired material.  People tend to ignore navigation outside their website.  The good news is that it’s not too challenging.  It just takes diligence.

A blog is an easy example.  Most of the navigation is built in for you.  Search features are common and adding categories or links is a good way to provide an ability to sort material.  It’s just a matter of doing it.  Many people get caught up in writing content they don’t take the last step to categorize it.  Be diligent and always make sure that people can find what you’ve written.

Another danger is getting caught up in “the rules” or “the style guide”.  Having defined standards on a site, blog, forum, etc. that people can follow is essential.  However, there needs to be some room for exceptions.  Don’t be afraid to buck a rule if it causes confusing navigation.

I recently encountered an example.  The site I was revising had several pages that served as indexes for different sections of content.  So far so good, the sections were all unique categories.  However, the second level provided the quandary.  The site rule was that all lists would be in alphabetical order. 

Not inherently a problem.  However, one of the category pages had a link that 83% of visitors ultimately clicked.  However, the time on the page was much longer than one would expect to simply move on to a content page.  Furthermore the service group routinely got calls asking about the location of this link.  It was by far the most popular link on the page but was not easily located. 

Where should it be placed?  Logically we would expect it to be right on the top of the page, right?.  Wrong, the link started with “Materials” so it was the 21st link out of 28.  It wasn’t even visible without scrolling down.

Now anyone freshly looking at this information would say put the most popular link on top.  Maybe it should be bolded or emphasized in some way as the analytics are clearly showing it’s what visitors are looking for.  However, the site owner fell into the “rules” trap.  The rule was alphabetical lists so “M” was toward the bottom.  No exceptions.

Make sure navigation is available and logical.  It’s important to remember that it has to logical to visitors rather than site owners.   Don’t make rules that work for you but not your visitors.  When visitors can find what they are looking for, the credibility of your content and your organization increase.

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