Clicks That Count
Your top navigation is your action navigation. It tells the user what they are supposed to do at your site, whether it be to order or to inquire. Things such as free catalog, auction and Web specials tend to work well. If you're driving most of your traffic from offline methods, be sure to include a quick/express catalog order.
Bottom navigation is a regurgitation of the three to four items listed at the top as well as links to your site map, privacy statement, customer bill of rights and contact information. Contact information includes your logo, a five- to seven- word tagline about your business, address, phone and fax numbers, URL, e-mail address, and any copyright information.
Your left-hand navigation tells the user what's in your store and how they're supposed to get around. At the top of your left-hand bar, ask them to sign-up for your free e-mail or newsletter. Underneath, offer them a couple of ways to search (pure text searches and drop-down boxes tend to work best), the highlights of your store (the three to four items you really want them to check out), your subject categories and your content. Content includes customer testimonials, company information and a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. At the bottom of your left-hand navigation, encourage your customers to refer a friend or colleague to your site.
After you've developed your navigation, work on the search function. It should be intuitive and easy to use.
#3. Solid Shopping Cart and Inquiry Forms
If you're an e-commerce site, developing a solid shopping cart is one of the most difficult things you need to do. Your cart needs to be designed for the lowest common denominators, meaning the people who are a few french fries short of a Happy Meal.
Your cart should break the ordering process into four to six steps, starting with the easy billing information first. It must calculate shipping, handling and taxes and mimic any and all offline processes—if you take purchase orders offline you must do it online as well.