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Make Your Site Easy To Navigate

By Jeff Colburn
Posted Monday, June 21, 2004

Competition on the Internet is fierce. Just a mouse
click away are hundreds of other sites offering the
same products/services that you offer. So when all
your hard work has paid off and a potential client
has found your site, you want to be sure they can
easily find what they want so they can buy it from
you. According to the Giga research group, 70% of
all web site visitors leave a site without finding
what they came for. Imagine what will happen to
your bottom line if 70% of all prospective clients
can't find what they are looking for? You work hard
to get people to your site, don't let poor website
design make almost three quarters of them leave
empty handed.

To make your site easy to navigate you need to lay
it out logically. This will make your products and
services easy to find. To start out with, group
similar items together. Let's say you sell shirts,
pants and coats. Group all of your coats together,
then pants and then shirts. Don't list a few coats,
then some pants, then a couple more coats, then
some shirts. A person may go to your site looking
for coats. They scroll down the page and see a
couple of coats, then see some shirts and figure that
those are all the coats you have. They didn't see
what they wanted and left, but if they had scrolled
down one more screen, they would have found the
exact coat they wanted.

A better solution is to list all of your coats, then
cross sell. You could say, "If you need a shirt, use
this link," then send them off to your shirt page. Or
to be more specific, next to each coat (or shirt or
pants) say, "Use this link to find the shirts and pants
that go perfectly with this coat." You can have the
link go to a page with shirts and pants whose style
and color go with that coat. Not only will this let
your prospective clients find all related products
and make upselling easier, but if they don't know
how to match colors or styles then you will put
them at ease by making the selections for them.

If you have products or services that can't be
grouped together, or you just have a huge list of
items, then use a search engine. Most webhosts
offer the option of having a search engine on your
site. This make finding things on large sites easier.
Many people will use a search engine without even
looking around a site to find what they want. They
just find using a search engine to be faster and

There are other ways to make your site easy to
navigate. One is to have a site map. It can be as
simple as a list of links to each one of your pages,
or I have also seen them get more complicated, so
that below each link to a page are all the main links
on that page. Using the clothing example above,
you would have a link to the coat page, then
sublinks to wool coats, polyester coats and so on. I
often use site maps to get around large sites, when
they offer them. They are easy to put together and
update and can be very useful if you don't want a
search engine on your site or as another tool that
visitors can use besides a search engine.

When you are laying out your site, be sure not to
bury a page or section. By that I mean that visitors
to your site should be able to get to any page or
section using no more than three links. It's not as
hard it may sound. If you find yourself burying a
page someplace, just redesign the layout or create a
page that will let the buried page be closer to a main
page. So if you want people to buy socks on your
site, don't make them click to the clothes page, then
click to the coat page, then click to the sundry page,
then click to the footwear page, then click to the
sock page, then click to the wool sock page. Make
the sundry page one of your main pages, like the
clothing page.

Another thing to remember is to place your links in
the same place on every page, so visitors can easily
navigate on each page. On my site I place the links
at the top and bottom of each page, so if they read
down a long list of events they don't have to scroll
back up to the top to use a link. Of course, you
could also put a "back to top" link at the bottom of
each page instead. I put "back to top" links after the
end of each book listing on my Books page. So if
they wanted to see just one book, after reading
about it they can easily go back to the top.

Be sure that your links and buttons are easy to read,
and descriptive of where the visitor will be take. If
you have a coat page, call the link "Coats," not
"Things To Keep You Warm," and be sure the text
can be easily read. Don't make the text too small or
similar to the background color. No black on purple
or yellow on white.

When laying out your website think like a person
who is visiting for the first time. Pretend you don't
know anything about the site, you're in a rush and
you're trying to find something on the site that
Google said was there. Make the experience of
visiting your site, easy, fast and enjoyable.

About the Author
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