So, this weekend we were fortunate to go to the Muller Anniversary Games at the Olympic Park in Stratford.  Having tried, and failed, to get tickets to the athletics in the Oympics 6 years ago we were excited to see an event in the Olympic Stadium.

We arrived early.  This is a really unusual state of affairs for me, as some of you will know.  Admittedly we were only early because I thought it started 2 hours earlier (ie the gate opening times) than it actually did…

I am not familiar with that part of London at all (although I have been to the park a couple of times).  When we arrived at Stratford Station, there were NO signs up directing us to the Anniversary Games – NONE.  There weren’t even any obvious signs inside the station directing us to the Olympic Stadium (even labelled West Ham football).  When we came out we saw a tiny sign with the way to the Queen Elizabeth Park.

We ended up going the “scenic route”.  Which wasn’t a problem because we weren’t in a hurry and we weren’t about to head back home.

But it got me thinking about navigation more generally and websites in particular.  There is nothing more annoying than not being able to find what you want.  Customers aren’t always so patient.  If they can’t easily find what they want at best they will be frustrated and at worst they will leave without buying/contacting you/finding out about what you do.

Businesses often focus on the aesthetics of a website.  How it looks is important, but usability is much more important.  Web designers often refer to this as “UX design” – User Experience.  It is crucial to the success of your website.

Website navigation is traditionally through a menu at the top of the page.  Whilst there are other ways of signposting your business, customers expect there to be menu bar at the top of the page, so why make life hard for them?  We recommend no more than 6 top level menu items – any more starts to look too cluttered.  If you need more then use drop down menus under obvious headings.  It may not be the most artistic/clever way but it helps your customers or potential customers to find what they want.

The homepage is another place to help your customer to find what they want.  We think of it a bit like an expanded menu.  But a homepage can help customers find what they want/need in a more creative way – using images and words to draw them in.

So, we challenge you to take a look at your website (and indeed any other promotional material) and see if your signposting is better than the Olympic Stadium!

PS We had a fantastic day out.  The athletics was great (with local Sevenoaks boy Tom Bosworth getting a world record) and the stadium impressive, but it was the easy nature of it (lots of families, some with fairly young children) and atmosphere that will probably stay with us.

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