Recently, I received an email from the folks over at IDEA.org, a nonprofit organization which focuses on improving the web’s potential to deliver information. They had just finished compiling the results of a research study entitled: Finding Information: Factors that improve online experiences.
The report addresses the gap that exists between what web visitors are looking for and what websites actually offer, and breaks the findings into several key areas. Two areas that are especially relevant to us are: (1) design and navigation, and (2) depth and variety of website content.
Can Visitors Navigate Your Website?
One of the most frequently encountered problems that visitors face is finding information. More often than not, visitors find themselves disoriented because there is not any clear navigation to guide them through the website.
To make your website easy to navigate, consider implementing the following:
- Consistent Navigation. When planning your navigation, you should be sure to design your web pages such that the navigation is always in the same location. This way, users won’t have to search for it.
- Breadcrumbs. Another way to ensure that users know exactly where they are in your website is to show them their path from the home page to their current destination.
- Obvious Navigation. Creativity is always good when designing websites. However, the website needs to be functional. Keep this in mind when designing the navigation. While images or pictures might be a novel idea, the best navigation is created using a simple text in a vertical or horizontal list.
- Site Map. For large websites, it is a good idea to include a site map, or some other comprehensive listing of your website’s pages.
- Search. Finally, it is also helpful to include a website search feature. This will enable clients to find exactly what they are looking for, without having to navigate your website.
Is Your Content Sufficient?
The average website falls short of providing adequate content which often results in a poor visitor experience.
As a result, you should consider the following when developing content:
- How readable is the information? It is very important not to assume too much background knowledge. You want all of your visitors to be able to read, understand, and enjoy your content. So when drafting your content, pay close attention to your word choice and try not to use any specialized jargon or uncommon terminology.
- Have you provided links to additional material? For some visitors, your article may not be enough, and they are left wanting more, perhaps deeper, information. Of course, it might not be appropriate to put all of this inside of an article, but you should provide links to additional information. It is also a good idea to include links to other content on different, but related, subjects.
- Is there fresh content on your website? Visitors also like to know that they are getting fresh up-to-date content. Be sure to provide this by regularly updating your website. This will also give visitors a reason to return and promote visitor loyalty.
As we have mentioned several times in the past, and as was reinforced by this study, the key to a successful website is being able to give your visitors exactly what they are looking for. By implementing these tips, you will be well on your way to improving your visitor’s experience.
Source: Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement. Finding Information: Factors that improve online experiences. Rockville, MD: Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement, 2008.
For more information, visit the IDEA.org website. Tags: content, navigation, visitor loyalty