Make no mistake, lack of attention to site integration will bite you. Many web owners leave their customers to fumble through a site that is confusing and has no clear next step. Customers feel unsupported and abandoned. In the biz, we call these people “widows and orphans”. This leads to missed opportunities and missed revenue for business owners.
The Hansel and Gretel Shuffle
You may not realize it but retail stores are designed to move you through in a Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb like trail. They lure you in by putting eye-catching items in the window. Once you are in, your steps have been pre-planned by the big marketing team in the sky. They tempt with interesting items so you will move to the right and then the left. Then a display that requires you to move around it. On and on it goes until you look back and have walked a predetermined path through the store designed to showcase their merchandise.
Simple Strategies to Create a Highly Integrated Website
1. Balance your creativity with predictability. People feel safe and comfortable when they can predict what will happen next. So many of my clients want to get all creative and shake things up. That is great, you need to put your personality out there but remember to keep your customer in mind first. The solution for a confused website visitor is just a click away– a click away off your site that is!
Some marks to hit include:
Logo in the top left of the home page
Navigation bar preferably across the top but can also be on one of the sidebars. However, this must be very visible.
Newsletter or Opt-In sign up in the top right sidebar area.
2. Hyperlinks. Add hyperlinks throughout your site, linking to the next page in the site you want your visitor to go. Think of these as sign posts on a hiking trail. What is the next step you want your visitor to take? Talk about your amazing services on your ‘About’ page, then add a hyperlink to the ‘Services’ page right there. “Contact us for more details” should include a hyperlink to the ‘Contact’ page or your email. One great practice is to put this contact information at the bottom of every page.
Bottom line: Always have at least one link to follow to your next service, product, or more information. Never leave them stranded on one of your pages. Make it easy for them and lead on!
3. Social media integration. There are many new buttons, badges, and plugins that make integrating Twitter, Facebook and other social media stupid easy. I recommend finding one or two social media sites to focus on and integrating them with your website. You stand a much better chance for success if you narrow your focus, get that rolling and then build from there.
4. To breadcrumb or not to breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are the little headlines you see on a web page that tell you how you got there. They are used to keep the visitor oriented to where they are and how they got there. If you have a complex site, breadcrumbs can be useful. However a well designed navigation bar and site integration can be all you need. In the end it is a personal preference. I prefer not to rely on them as they take up valuable web page real estate and I find them distracting.
These are just a few easy things you can do to improve your site integration and navigation. I highly recommend Steve Krug’s Book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition for more ideas and an in-depth look at site usability and integration.
Are You a Man or a Chicken?
Next up in the Secret Weapons of Web Design series – Web Page Layout. Did you know your site visitors are not reading every line of your beautiful prose? It’s true, we as humans tend to act more like chickens when it comes to reading websites. We pick and pluck, scan and skip. Next post I’ll share the secrets of how to layout and design your web pages for maximum impact with your visitors.