Navigation That Works (964 words)
By Amy Africa
Master site navigation—and get your right-hand column on the right track.
For most companies, 80 percent to 90 percent of the people who visit their sites never leave the page they came in on. Some of this happens because the user clicked the wrong button and subsequently landed on the wrong page, but most of it happens because the company didn't give customers what they were looking for the instant they arrived.
What do users look for on an entry page? One of the first things is a reason to stay. In the upper right-hand quadrant of your site—the "hot spot"—you need to give the customer something to focus on. Deals or special offers work best, but you also can use this area to promote a special product or service.
Next, the user looks for easy ways to get around. Whether or not you're actually selling a product, your entry page is the window of your store. To get someone to come in and look around, you've got to show them something they want to touch and feel.
How do you do this? By setting up solid navigation. Navigation accounts for at least 40 percent of your success online. Therefore, it's important you offer your customers several tiers of navigation: top navigation, bottom navigation and left-hand navigation—also called the "C."
The right-hand column can and should be used for selling, but it shouldn't be used as a directional tool for many reasons.
For example, if your screen size is not designed for the lowest common denominator, many of your customers may not be able to see the whole thing. Depending on the settings, browsers often cut off the right-hand side of the screen.
Ask yourself: If your user takes away only one message from your site, what do you want it to be? The top navigation, also called the action bar, tells the user what to do at your site and should have three to five "directionals" that tell customers exactly what you want them to do.