Snazzy unique navigation may wow your site visitors, but if it hinders them from finding what they need, they won't be hanging around very long.
"Most sites have miserable information architectures that mirror the way the company internally thinks about the content and not the way users think about the content. Predictably, users ignore such unhelpful structure." It's been several years since design guru Jakob Nielsen wrote that assessment, and not much has changed since.
Typically, people "ignore such unhelpful structure" by leaving your site without having reached their goals, and they never come back. Want to help your customers shop and move them ever closer to converting into buyers? Then design your navigation to support the way your customers think, so your site anticipates the way your customers want to interact with it. Remember these three cardinal rules of navigation design: Keep it simple, make it intuitive, and be consistent.
Studies demonstrate that people search for and gather information in fairly predictable ways. Navigation has two basic roles to play. It orients the customer by letting him know where he is; and it directs, showing him where he can go and how he can get back to where he was before.
Let me summarize some basic truths about navigation:
Many different types of navigation schemes exist out there. Ideally, you should combine elements to create a scheme that works best for your business and your customers. The goal, obviously, is to orient and direct your customers to and through the conversion step of your persuasion process, whether that conversion is a purchase, subscription, phone call, or whatever other action you want your visitors to take. Let's talk about some of these schemes:
The right blend of schemes depends on the type of product or service you are offering and, in turn, the nature of your visitor. Keep these pointers in mind as you create the structure for successful and painless movement throughout your Web site, and you'll be on the right track:
Again, it's all about designing your information architecture around the searching patterns and psychology of your visitors -- not coming up with something that looks cool but sends your visitors clicking for the hills. When you make it easy for your visitors to find what they want to buy quickly and intuitively, more of them will convert. And that's the point, isn't it?
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Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
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