Planning A New Website - Part 2: Navigation

Planning A New Website - Part 2: Navigation

Posted On: 11th June 2013

Navigation is the steering wheel of a website and helps visitors get to the right destination

The decision to commission a new website is an exciting time, but with graphical concerns so high on the agenda, it’s easy to forget that a website must first and foremost deliver on your business goals. A profitable website must function well on many fronts, but one area that’s highly important is navigation. If visitors can’t move around your site easily they’re not likely to have a positive (or productive) experience and you’re unlikely to see a profit from it!

Menus vs Direction

A good, clear main menu with pages under each heading is a good place to start. Product Catalogues work particularly well with this sort of structure. Visitors experience this type of menu on many sites so there’ll be a good deal of familiarity right away. Your products and services will often fall into clear categories, ranges and types (we call these ‘silos’) and presenting them this way makes for nice, clear menus.

But isn’t that being a bit presumptive?

Organising your Product Catalogue in ‘silos’ might be the easiest approach (and make your site map look clear), but can make the task of locating the right product quite difficult. If visitors are already familiar with your catalogue then fine, but what if they’re not?

Who are your visitors and what do they want?

You can assist visitors to find their way around a ‘silo’ structure by adding ‘directive’ blocks. Rather than simply presenting a ‘Products’ section and hoping your visitors will know where to go, how about showing ‘Answers’ to your visitors questions? To do this it’s good to take some time to think about your visitors and why they’ve come to your site.

A formal approach that we’ve come to love on this subject is ‘User Stories’ as outlined by gov.uk that we came across via the boagworld.com podcast. The outcome of this approach is a series of cards, each with a short piece of text, for each visitor / goal. 

The questions that deliver this text for each card look like this:

  • Who is the visitor?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What is their end goal?

String some example answers together and you might get something like this:

“As a homeowner .... I want to find out about fitting integrated technology in my home .... so that I can access my films more easily and achieve a cinema like experience.”

This short sentence tells you a great deal about your visitor and their requirements. It also keeps in mind the language they use and reminds us what type of language we should be using on the wesbite.

Give me some direction!

Now that you understand your visitor’s needs, it’s time to meet them head on! Let’s consider a CI installer’s website. Using our example above you might think a simple list of an Installer’s services might be a starting point for a menu setion:

  • Multiroom
  • Home Cinema
  • HVAC
  • Control Systems

But is this likely to make any headway with your visitor? For most people outside of the CI industry the list might as well be in a foreign language; some of the words are familiar, but there’s no context.  How about this as alternative:

  • Music in every room
  • A cinema in your living room
  • The perfect temperature at the touch of a button

Now these examples might be a bit long for an average menu button, but they’re perfect for a content ‘block’ on a home page. Support them with a short explanation and a ‘Find Out More’ button and visitors to your website will feel excited, reassured and confident that you’re about to help them achieve their goals.

Also, we can also create specific sections for user groups with similar directive blocks:

  • Our services for Homeowners ....
  • Our services for Architects ....
  • How we work with M&E Consultants ....

These are all likely visitors to your website and need different information. They often require a different approach in language too, so speaking to them individually with separate pages or sections is a great way to recognise and deliver on their individual goals.

Help!

We’re always on hand to help with site design, be it graphical or navigation. If you’ve found this helpful but need a little more direction about a specific question why not get in touch?

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