Getting Around On Your Web Site
Easy navigation through your site is absolutely essential to a successful design. If the path you lay out for your customers to follow is long, twisted and forks off without reason, they’ll get lost – and you’ll lose the sale.
As part of planning in Step 1, we asked you to draw a simple diagram of all the pages on your future Web site, beginning with the home page, then connect them in the order you expect customers to follow.
Did it get messy? Too complicated? That’s your draft. Now you’ll refine it.
Try the same exercise by starting with the last page on your site diagram and working back to the home page. A lot of designers find that much easier.
Now, is every page linked directly to the home page like spokes on a wheel? That can work, but it requires your customers to go back to the home page every time they want find more information, more page links. Do you have patience with that kind of back-and-forth?
Every one of your Web pages should have an obvious link back to home, and many companies use their logo (with an embedded link) for that purpose. But it’s not enough.
Persistent navigation is much better. As long as one or more of the following elements appears exactly the same way in the same place on every one of your pages, your customers will be able to go wherever they want from any page on the site without first heading back home. Here’s how to do it:
- Menus. Every Web user is familiar with menus and how they work. Often found on the left side of Web pages in vertical format, they may include clickable buttons linked to products or categories, blog pages or glossaries, size charts or shipping tables – anything that appears on the site’s other Web pages.
- Tabs. Amazon.com was the first to use a horizontal row of “file folder tabs” at the top of its Web pages to give users an easier way to find popular content on the massive Web site. The fact that you now see tab-navigation everywhere on the Web is proof of its usability.
- Site map. This can a simple text list or a more visually appealing diagram that shows where everything lives on your site. But if you have a large site, the diagram can become unwieldy. Just be sure your site map includes everything on your Web site with links to each page. You don’t need to put the map itself on every page; link to it from your menu.