Navigation.  It is the make or break of any website.  It can be your strongest asset or your weakest link.

If people are coming to your website and they struggle to find what they are looking for, they will abandon your site.  This means that all the work, time and effort – hours, days, weeks, and months working to have a website put together goes down the drain for that individual.  Those hours have little to no ROI, except as a potential metric of “under 10 seconds” visitor.  These visitors could be your most powerful visitors, but because they couldn’t find the information which is valuable to them, they left and you missed out on the opportunity to win them over.

There are some who might consider a visitor who visited for under 10 seconds to be a misclick!  Oh, misguided individuals!  Sure, some of them might have been mistaken hits, some might be bots, but some… they might just be your target demographic and in a time where digital media often drives a business’ success, that demographic could be a lot larger than one might think!

 

Information delivery for the cherry-pickers

There are several ways to deliver information depending on the audience.  The easy targets – the ones who are used to cherry-picking information from your site are no-brainer groups to target for navigation, such as careers and investors.  These are target groups who are used to having to look for their section.

Common practices for the cherry-picking individuals include:

  • 2nd tier navigation (smaller footprint, not part of primary nav, but still accessible)
  • Tucked into the about us / about the company section
  • Accessible through the footer.

These individuals aren’t as likely to look at the body of content when they’re driven with their core targetted goal when browsing the site.  That being said, there are key points of suggestive access which a website could use to cross-pollinate content, depending on the company and the context of the information.

 

Everyone else (the potential majority)

Discovering top priority, core business functions and how that aligns with the visitor base (especially the target visitor base) and put the visitor’s objectives in a heightenned priority ranking – make them easily accessible while being true to what you do.

Ambiguity, or what could be called as dirty magnet navigation terms are for some strange reason, popular among many companies and should be avoided when at all possible.  This isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions to the rule, but if it’s at all possible, enable informed visitors – make your visitors feel smart!   When someone feels smart, they get a positive reaction in their brain which then fuels continued exploration and fosters brand trust.  In addition, a lot of individuals won’t click on something they don’t understand – it inspires fear.   The more positive responses that a website can inspire, the greater their confidence and affections become towards the brand.  This quite often ends in a larger ROI – what company doesn’t want that?

So then how does one change existing navigation labels to make them relevant to the visitors?

I’ve seen a lot of decisions on labels coming from the perspective of the company.  This can quite often be a primary point of confusion to the users.   If you’re in the hot seat to make the decisions, throw those labels at a small group (3-5 non-company people who have backgrounds which might match target demographics) and see what happens in a user testing scenario.  Give it a shot and ask individuals to look for specific content.  If it takes more than a minute (and even that could be considered as too long) then it’s confusing.  Quite often, just the change in a navigation label can mean the difference between abandonment and target audience success.

 

The general theme is to move AWAY from “what the company wants” and instead, adopt presentation to make it easy and relevant to what “the visitor wants”.

 

Want to know more?  Check out what these guys are saying:

The Elements of Navigation, published by Smashing Magazine
By Petter Silfver

Web site navigation can make or break user experience, published at Luxury Daily
by Elizabeth Zelesny

Navigating Through Muddy Waters, published at My Rise Design.net
by Taylor Clark

UX Blog: Expected objective fulfillment
by Ariel Leroux