Website Content and Navigation

by Selwyn Bergman of BMSC-Online

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Website Content

Content is KingBy referring to the list of needs that your visitors have, you should write your content in such a way that it focusses on fulfilling those needs. If its information they require, give it to them without any hassles. They'll appreciate the ease with which their queries were answered and hold your website in good regard. From a marketing perspective this is extremely valuable as it affects their attitude as they continue through your website, and will eventually play a role in whether or not they decide to purchase something from you. Remember that the Golden Rule for Designing websites is: Content is King.

Content is King

Think carefully about what content you'll be putting up on your website, the purpose it will serve and how you will present it to the public. Plan ahead and think about how often it will need to be updated and how/who does the updates. Website Maintenance is often overlooked and can sometimes result in a "stagnant" website. Even if your resources only allow you to update once or twice a year, an appropriate Website Maintenance Plan will accomodate this in such a way that the site doesn't stagnate.

Navigation

If content is so important when planning your website, then surely the way it is presented and how you jump around different sections of it should be of great importance as well. One could go so far as to say that if Content is King, then navigation would be Queen. Afterall, how are you going to view your all-important content if there wasnt a way of clicking around to the different sections?

Navigation shouldnt be crypticTry to stay clear of complicated navigation themes where pictures are supposed to mean something else. For example, if you have a website about animals don't use a picture of a messenger pigeon as the link to the "Contact Us" page. Most people don't even know what a messenger pigeon looks like and wouldn't know what that picture actually means. Javascript rollovers are also quite commonly used for navigation and should be avoided if possible. They pose problems to some search engines and as a result your site doesn't get properly indexed. You then lose out on some traffic. As a suggestion, I find that text-based navigation is the most reliable. If there aren't many sections to your site, a horizontal navigation bar would be ideal, and is the easiest to reproduce at the bottom of the page if necessary.

Don't make your navigation too cryptic.

Think Logically about your navigationThink logically about your navigation and pay attention to where the most reasonable area is to put each part of your content. You wouldn't expect to find a price list in a section detailing your company history after all. When you label your navigation, hopefully in text, be clear without being too lengthy. Some time ago, I visited a pc hardware website where the navigation links were labelled "Who", "What", and "Where" and led to pages that contained information about the company profile, their products and how to contact them respectively. At my first sight, I thought that "Who, what and where" must be some kind of reference to the Cluedo board game, and I mistook the PC Hardware company for one that sells boardgames. To think about it, I could possibly have made a hundred assumptions about what the navigation labels meant and without the actual webmaster around to correct me, I'd simply leave the site disappointed. Don't make your navigation too cryptic.

Unnecessary Pages and bad flow of information

Dont Disrupt the info flowSplash pages, and pages that disrupt the "flow of information" are related to bad navigation. In most cases, splash pages are completely unnecessary and the only purpose they serve is to look cool. Its been said before that visitors to your website have already made a commitment by clicking on a link to your site, or even typing the address into the URL. They don't need to be teased even more to click further into the site - just let them in first time around.

Chances are that the people who visited your website don't care about who you are

Web pages that disrupt the flow of information should also be looked out for. An example of this is, up until fairly recently, the website for a large brewery which had as it's Home page, their Legal Disclaimer. In other words, the first thing you see when you enter their site is a Legal Disclaimer. Another example are those websites that force you to go through their Company Profile page in order to access the rest of the site. Chances are that the people who visited your website don't care about who you are, what your vision is, and where you've come from, so why subject them to hearing about this when they can be let loose to find something meaningful on the site? Be on the lookout for pages that disrupt the natural path through your site - dont give surprise pages that leave visitors questioning why they appeared, and dont try to force visitors to look at something they're not interested in.

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