by Webnme2 on Mar 20th 2010
Corporate Site Design and Navigation
As a webmaster I tend to want to be free to design pages that do the best job of representing my client, that accomplish the mission of the company or corporation and that please the management of the company or corporation.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows the company or corporation to rapidly create websites and post information that is relevant and helpful. And hopefully it will improve sales.
However, if I look at the web from the perspective of a potential customer, finding information is a daunting task. Here’s how it feels:
—-> Initiate virtual visitor mode:
What will help me? Well first I need a starting point. I may go to a search engine to get started. I may try a company name followed by “.com” to see if that gets me where I want to go. In either case I probably will land on the company’s site.
When I arrive, the first thing I have to do is learn how to navigate the company’s website. I have to learn the icons, the colors, etc. Whew! That’s a lot of work. Now I have to figure out where to find information. That was some more work.
Oooh Oooh, I just got transferred to a page, but it looks all different. Alarm bells!!!! Did I accidently go to the wrong place? Why does it look different? Is this the same company? Oh dang, the navigation here is all backwards from the other page. I’m all mixed up. I guess I’d better call somebody or get my kid to look at it later when he comes home. I sure don’t understand this new stuff.
—-> Well that customer just left frustrated. We lost them. Virtual
visitor mode terminated.
Visitors come back to sites that are easy to use and sites that are productive to use. Visitors don’t return to sites that are difficult to use, sites that take too long to use, and sites that don’t have the information where it can be found.
One of the core components of a site is navigation. If navigation is consistent across an enterprise (even if colors and type styles changes), the the visitor doesn’t have to relearn the site with each web area or website visited. It becomes easy to get around because you learn how it works and it is always the same.
Whey you turn on any computer application you expect the help button to be in the top menu bar to the far right. If it isn’t there you usually taken aback and want to know if the application is broken, isn’t up to snuff, etc. The same thing happens when a visitor arrives at a website. If things aren’t where they are expected to be, then the visitor will leave and most likely won’t return any time soon.
If layout and navigation are consistent, then there should be a lot of room for creativity with the rest. Keep things consistent where it matters, but allow for variation. Once people learn your navigation, they need cues to tell them when they have crossed the boundary from one web area to another. This is sort of like driving from one neighborhood to another. The roadsigns and streets are all pretty much the same making travel easier, but
the neighborhoods have their own character.
The bottomline is making life easier for a customer or visitor.