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Navigating Your Way to A User-Friendly Web Site

A man reaches a fork in the road

Is your web site easy to navigate? If visitors can’t navigate your site quickly and easily, they’ll flee. When we build sites, we ask our clients to imagine their clients’ agendas. What are visitors expecting to do when on your site? The answers will vary for different audiences.

For example, some visitors may be clients seeking to track an order. Others may be prospects looking for products and pricing information. Imagine all the audiences that might visit your site and create menu links that act as signposts for their journeys.

Make your links unambiguous. Ask yourself, “If I see this link, what content should I expect to find?” If the answer is hazy, you should probably rename the link or change the content and structure.

Prior to writing this column, I searched for some examples of poor navigation. I didn’t have to look very hard. On one site, we found main navigation links for “About Us” and “Our Approach.” The “About Us” page had a hodge-podge of information — company history, some clients, and a lengthy paragraph describing the company’s philosophy. The “Our Approach” page described the company’s methodology and philosophy. Redundant content. Ambiguous links.

Finally, test your navigation with informal focus groups — before you build the site. Show people the navigation scheme. Ask them what they would expect to find if they clicked the links you’ve outlined. If their expectations don’t jibe with yours, go back to the drawing board.

Want more tips for building an effective web site? Go to www.marketvolt.com/web-checklist for a free, report: 15 Essential Elements to Maximize the Impact of your Website.

Tom Ruwitch writes a monthly marketing column for St. Louis Small Business Monthly. This post first appeared as one of those columns.

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