In my experience, grocery stores are one of the most frustrating places I go. I really try to avoid going at all costs. Why? Because when I go, I'm usually looking for unusual ingredients for something special my wife is planning to make. She sends me there for things like ground red pepper, evaporated chicken broth, rare beans or chopped green chiles.
If I were going there for some milk, then no problem, because I know they always put the milk in the back corner of the store. But when I (the non-frequent grocery store user) go for unusual items, I have no idea where these random things are located (the frequent shopper who's been up and down the aisles hundreds of times might). Anybody with me?! Can I get an amen?!
So there I am, Mr. Non-Frequent Grocery Store User, walking back and forth, up and down, and side to side cursing under my breath (and scheming how I can avoid ever being roped into this again) trying to find a store worker to direct me. They're never around when you need them, eh?!
The problem is grocery stores suck at usability. They have a big sign on the front of the store that tells you it's the right place. But then they jump right down to the specific grocery items, typically completely bypassing any sort of section labels (although some have been getting better). Plus, the aisle signs only have a few of the items that are actually contained in the aisle. I can't tell you how many times I've finally found an item in an aisle where there was no indication that it was located there. If you do this on your website, you'll make users want to never come back.
How does this apply to your website? There may be more people cursing under their breath when they enter your website and who leave motivated to never come back than you think. Consider these four facts:
Just like I scheme about how to never visit the grocery store again, website users will do the same thing if they're convinced you don't have what they're looking for or they get too frustrated to keep looking. Do you see how important it is to your business to not partake in such a dastardly deed? Words can't express.
How do you avoid doing such a thing? You create a clear, simple and consistent navigation that allows the user to browse your site quickly and easily or ask.
How would a user ask your site where to go? With the search box of course. Some people will always look for this when they land on a site, while others will always try to use the navigation first. Regardless of how the user wants to get where they want to go, at any point in time, it should be quick and easy for them to do so. When it is, users will start to believe that your business actually knows what it's doing. When it isn't, you can bet it affects the user's trust in your knowledge, competency and in what you're offering them (if they even stick around to find out).
If you want to be a business your site users will trust, there are some general rules you're going to want to make sure you don't break. Back to the grocery store. It's like having the express lane in aisle 1, every grocery store does it. If your grocery store doesn't, you can bet your you-know-what that droves of people with more than 12 items will be entering your express lane that you put in aisle 12 (true story, this really happened to me! And they acted like I was the idiot!?!). Meanwhile the shoppers with less than twelve items will be hanging out down around aisle 1 looking up for the express lane sign.
If your site breaks any of these simple navigation rules, you know you have some work to do...
As soon as a user lands on any page of the site, they should be able to quickly and easily identify what site they're on, what page of the site they're on, how that page fits in to the site as a whole, the places it makes sense to go to from this page and how they can search if they want to. If all of the pages of your site pass this simple test you're doing pretty good. If not, you can bet your business is likely not where it could be.
Mike Fleming specializes in Analytics and Paid Search for Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @SEMFlem. Mike enjoys playing, writing and recording music along with playing basketball to get his workout in. He resides in Canton, Ohio with a girl who threw a snowball at him one day…then married him.
Mike and the team at Pole Position are available to help clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Contact them via their site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
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