Yesterday, I stumbled across a large ad agency website that promised to be interesting. As soon as I clicked on the link in Google, my senses were assaulted by a splash page, followed by a Flash intro, all before I could enter the site
. Yes, it took two clicks before I was even at the homepage
...that is appalling! Why on earth is anyone in this day and age still creating websites with splash pages and Flash intros, let alone both on the same site! That borders on visitor abuse.
This particular agency claimed to have won lots of awards, create ground-breaking campaigns, along with all kinds of other lofty promises, and yet they couldn't even get their own usability issues under control! Wow, talk about missing the point. If I was a potential client, I would have been out the door as soon as I saw the splash page. Ditch the lofty ideas and focus on the users.
Big ideas are great when executed with usability in mind, but when the they become a hindrance to users, it's time to go back to basics. Why? Because unhappy users don't convert.
You won't sell product, you won't get contracts, and you won't achieve your other conversion metrics if you make people want to run away.Navigation is the Foundation of Usability
The first and foremost element of good usability is navigation. Almost all other usability issues are built on, or in some way related to navigation. This article will focus on some key tips you can use to improve your site's navigation. Navigation 101: 3 Clicks or Bust
When someone visits your site for the first time, it's often their first point of contact with your company, so the relationship with them is quite fragile. On average, people are willing to give you 3 clicks to find what they are looking for, and if they can't reach their target destination within those 3 little clicks, you've lost them. It's extremely important to structure your navigation so that any page of your site can be reached within 3 clicks of any other page, because users don't always enter at the homepage, especially when they come from a search engine.
This point is really what sparked this post. The ad agency mentioned above wasted two of these valuable clicks before a user was ever at the homepage. Take a look at your site: When you have a new visitor, can they get to their target destination in 3 clicks or less?
If not, you need to overhaul your navigation. Users tend to get lost without clear navigational paths, so make it easy for them. Take time at the beginning of site development to create a good site map, and sketch out navigational paths.Redundancy is a good thing.
Provide multiple paths to the same destination. Take x
product (or service) and make sure that users can get there through the primary navigation, the contextual links in the text of the site, and through any other paths that make sense, for example through site search results. The key is to think like a user.Get outside feedback.
When developing a site, especially navigation, it often is necessary to get some people to visit your site who are completely unfamiliar with your site and products/services, and get their feedback. You might be surprised. Often outside feedback can you step back and see some weaknesses you weren't aware of.Make sure it's easy to read.
Keep in mind that eye-tracking studies have shown the users' eye tend to gravitate toward the top and left sides of the screen, starting with the top left corner, so those are prime locations for navigation. Users should never have to scroll to find navigation buttons/links.
There a many more things that can improve and fine-tune navigation, but these are some easy tips, that if implemented, will improve the user experience at your site.
May 8, 2008
Scott is the CEO and founder of Red Sand Marketing, a San Diego SEO and web design firm. A dynamic mix of marketer, designer, and developer, he thrives on all aspects of internet marketing and web development. Having been involved in search engine optimization and web design since 1996, he and his team consistently achieve top search engine rankings for clients in competitive markets, and have won multiple web design awards along the way.