In this, our final article in our series of Six Common Mistakes in Web Design we will talk about making your reader work too hard to find important content. According to the Nielson Norman Group, a visitor spends less than a minute visiting a web page. In fact, a page visitor usually only spends 10-20 seconds on a page. This means that you must provide the information they are looking for in an easy to find and read manner. Something that will catch their attention while not overwhelming them. Luckily, this can be done in a couple of ways.
The easiest way is to use your website’s menus and navigation properly and creatively. Every website has either a top horizontal navigation or a vertical navigation elsewhere on the site. It is very important that you use these correctly. Not every page on your website needs to be represented on the top level of this navigation system. Let us look at the example below.
The top level of a navigation or menu system is the links that you see when you first look at the menu without moving your mouse over the top of them. Some menus also have secondary or drop down links as seen in the example below. These links show up when you move your mouse over the top-level links.
Your top-level links should consist of the most important pages on the site. These should be pages that stand on their own and are not connected to other page categories. The second level pages should consist of pages that can be categorized under each of the top-level links. For instance, if you have pages that tell your mission statement or history of how your blog or business got started you would categorize these under the about us page. The about us page should give your visitor a brief overview of what your business does or why you blog. The common mistake is to include the overview of your business or blog and then further down the page include your companies mission statement or history. After that, you may decide to add where you are headed in the future and so on. This is a mistake because it creates a page that is too long and too full. Studies have shown that page visitors rarely scroll down the page to continue reading. You have to keep the most important information within that part of the window that is seen when the page is landed on. Anything else you may want your visitor to know should be included in the secondary menu or drop down pages.
Think of it this way, a visitor spends less than a minute and most often only 10-20 seconds on a page. If you put all of your information on a single long page that the visitor will have to scroll down to read then your information will be lost or ignored. However, if you create different pages for your important information and make those pages easy to find by correctly categorizing them then you will get more of your reader’s attention because you are getting 10-20 seconds per page. There are two keys to making this work: making the links to the pages easy to find and correctly categorizing the pages.
Let us deal with the first key which is making the links easy to find. Do not be afraid to be creative with your links. Most successful websites today have several different navigation systems for the same pages. They might have a top menu with drop down pages as well as pictures or teaser text links on the sides of the page or included within the body of the page. Having several different paths to the same page will ensure that you will get the attention of more visitors because each visitor looks at a page through their personality and preferences. While some people connect more with just a simple page title link others will find it easier to follow image links or teaser text links where they can read a sample of the page they will be going to before deciding to move on. Try to create a few different ways to navigate your site to ensure you reach the greatest amount of people.
Now, for the second key, which is correctly categorizing your pages in your main menu. You should think about how your visitor will read your site not how you would read your site. Most visitors will instinctively look for information like business mission or purpose statement and history as well as address, maps, phone or email information under the about us or contact us tab. I have been to some sites where this information is included under the home page.
It would be a mistake to place this information here because your visitor will not know to look for those pages there. Make sure to think about your reader. If you still do not know how to categorize your pages then try looking at some other well-established websites that are in the same area of interest as your site. Look at sites that are more advanced than yours is. It will do you no good to look at the websites of people who have the same amount of knowledge as yourself. Always find examples of sites that are where you want to be in the future and then learn from them.
Find & Read Friendly
Another way to present your site information in an easy to find and read manner aside from using menus correctly is to present your text properly.
- Do not be too wordy when putting text on your website.
- Practice being interesting while concise.
- Do not chase rabbits or give too much information.
- Do not be the person who monopolizes the conversation and bores everyone with too many facts or details that no one asked for. You website visitors will become bored and move on to another website that communicates more effectively and you will lose your opportunity to engage them.
- Write out what you want to say on each of your site pages and read it aloud to make sure it conveys the message you want to send. Then have someone else read it. Someone who will be objective and give their opinion of what they think you are saying or if you have gotten your point across.
Studies have shown that once a visitor leaves your site for negative reasons your chances of getting them to return are slim to none. In essence you have less than a minute to get their attention and connect with them to gain their loyalty. Do not waste your time or theirs.
I hope that in this series of “Six Common Web Design Mistakes and How To Avoid Them” you have learned some valuable information that if put into practice can help you to be more successful on the World Wide Web.