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The Importance of Good Navigation

Website navigation is one of those topics that no-one really talks about. But actually, it is super important.

You see if you just leave visitors to your website to wander, who knows where they’ll go. And unlike a trip to IKEA, if visitors find themselves in a place which doesn’t interest them, and they can’t find what they’re looking for, they will just leave. Without taking whichever action you wanted them to take.

Given you (and them) have gone to the effort of getting them to your website that really is a shame…

One potential client lost. All because they got, well, lost.

You might think I’m exaggerating but it is one of the key reasons website conversions can be low. And of course therefore one of the easiest things to fix and improve your website conversions.

There are two key elements to this

  • The client who wants to find something specific but can’t and
  • The client who is left to their own devices but leaves without doing what you want them to do

Let’s think about each of them

1. The client who wants to find something specific but can’t

I think we’ve all been in this position. We want to know something but we can’t find it. It may be there (but not obvious), or it may not be there.

It might be contact details. I’m a big fan of putting your contact details on a separate contact page and including this page on the top right of the menu on every page. Because we want clients to contact us if they need to before they buy. It can help to get into a dialogue with them. It’s also a sign of trust. I won’t buy from any online store that does not display their contact details. It doesn’t matter how great their clothes look or how cheap they are, even my teens have been trained that you don’t buy if you can’t easily see contact details.

A friend was telling me that she had been trying to book something online (having been told by the owner they could book online). After searching for the booking link for longer than she wanted to, she gave up and went elsewhere. That business lost a client because they made her search around. It happens frequently. And it is bonkers!

There is nothing more annoying than not being able to find what you want.  Customers aren’t always patient.  If they can’t easily find what they want at best they will be frustrated (not the best way to start a relationship). And at worst they will leave without buying/contacting you/finding out about what you do.

We’re all busy. We don’t have time to “enjoy the experience” and have a mooch around a website. We spend enough time searching for things around our homes (glasses, socks, mobile phones…). Make it easy for website visitors to do what they want to do (when you want them to do it too).

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.

2. The client who is left to their own devices but leaves without doing what you want them to do

I’ve been to LA twice. The first time was ok. We pitched up, stayed in a nice hotel and went to see “the sights”, like Rodeo Drive, the walk of fame, Venice Beach etc. To be honest we didn’t really know what all the fuss was about.

The second time was amazing. We stayed with a good friend who had moved there. She took us to see “the sights”. But she knew exactly where to find the stars on the walk of fame that we would love, without reading all the names of people we’ve never heard of. She took us to an amazing Italian restaurant on Venice Beach (pointing out loads of interesting stuff on the way). And gave us a tour of Beverley Hills, telling us where the famous people lived and some stories about them.

When we got home from the second trip we raved about LA.

You’ve no doubt had a similar experience. The “left to your own devices” mooch versus the one that gives you exactly what you want to see. There is a difference.

You might think there’s not a lot to see on your website. But you really want to try to create that similar guided tour. You want to take visitors through what they need to know. You want to impress them with stories that show how you help people just like them who are looking for whatever it is you provide. And you want them to think this is exactly what I need. Leading them to take the “next logical step” in working with you (which will be obvious of course – we’re not sending them on a hunt to find this).

How do you do this?

Well first of all you need to understand your target audience. What they’re looking for and what information they need. That “journey” they need to go on. It might be different for different potential clients. For me, clients who are starting out and on their first website will need different information to clients who have been in business a while and looking to “up level” their business. The message and information they need is different. If I made them all wade through the same information some of them would get bored, or overwhelmed/confused. And they’re more likely to leave before getting to the Call to Action (or not have the info they need to take that step).

You might need to send them to different services or services pages. If that is the case you need to guide them there. Use the homepage as a signpost to send them the right way to begin with. Tell them different success stories and share different testimonials. If I’m looking for a coach to help me move my business to the next level stories of start ups are not relevant. The paths might end up in the same place, but they are different.

Navigation Menus

Of course you can also use the menu at the top of the page to guide visitors.  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.

You can also use the footer to add additional menu items. We put things like terms and conditions and privacy policy there. Things you need but please don’t use valuable menu space at the top on these.

Conclusion

So, I challenge you to take a look at your website (and indeed any other promotional material) and think about whether you are making it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. If not, what can you do to help them?

Then think about the information your target audience needs. Does everyone need the same information or do you need to direct them in different ways? I know, this website building malarkey isn’t just a case of writing what you want to say about your business…

And that really is the key. You need to think about this from a prospective client’s point of view. And if you struggle with that, think about getting the help of a professional to build (or rebuild) your website. We would love to help of course!