The other day I was grocery shopping at Meijer. While waiting in line to check out I found my eye wondering across their ceiling and reading the department locators they have placed around the store. In my usual geek way, my mind wondered to my professional life and I started thinking about website navigation.
But what if I normally shop at Kroger and this was my first trip to Meijer? How overwhelmed would I be? Meijer is huge and the store sells everything from milk and paper products to bathing suits and auto supplies.
I’ve been shopping at this particular Meijer every week for about seven years. I know where the groceries and products are located and I could probably walk blindfolded to many things I commonly buy.
Meijer has obviously considered this because their ceiling provides an easy to use map of the store layout and it quickly navigates you to core locations (or departments) within the store. Need baby products or kitchen supplies? There is a sign for both and they even offer an image for those of us frantically looking for diapers in a late night store run. Think about how convenient and customer friendly this is for visitors.
How Effective is Your Navigation?
If you’re still not sure if you have navigation issues, head over to Google Analytics and look at your bounce rate. I was very careful in creating our navigation and our home page, as I wanted people to easily find the information they needed. It worked. When we redesigned our website our overall bounce rate dropped to less than 10% and our home page has a 1.2% bounce rate. Why? Because I thought about who we help, what they need, and I made sure everything is easy for them to find. I know we can continue to make improvements on our website, but navigation and locating information is solid because visitors tell me so. It is what differentiates our website from others – or that is what I’ve been told by some of our new clients.
But is this apparent to your website visitors? Does you home page and navigation quickly give website visitors an idea of the who, what, and why of you? Does it provide an easy to use map to your most important content? If you’re not sure, take a step back and look at it as if you are an outsider.
Make Website Navigation Easy
Your navigation is a key part of answering that question. People want to be able to answer the who, what, and why of their visit quickly. Having a navigation menu that clearly points visitors to an About, Products, Services, and Contact is important. Using common language is also important.
We frequently get asked to use industry jargon or quirky terminology in navigation, but we discourage it because it confuses visitors. Don’t make your visitors try and decipher your terminology. Make it easy on them or you’ll lose them.
A website, and in particular a home page, must quickly communicate what you offer and what users can do on your website. Website visitors need to be able to quickly determine what your website is all about.
Adaptive web navigation describes the process of real-time changes in a website’s navigation links and layout according to individual user preferences as they browse the site.
Innovative websites are increasingly attempting to automatically personalize web sites based on a user’s browsing pattern in order to find relevant information more quickly and efficiently.
The usage of data analysis allows website creators to track behavior patterns of a user as they navigate a site. Adding shortcut links between two pages, rearranging list items on a page, and omitting irrelevant navigation links are all examples of adaptive changes that can be implemented in real-time.
The advantage of utilizing adaptive technologies in web navigation is it reduces the time and navigational effort required for users to find information.
A possible disadvantage of this is that users may get disoriented from global and local navigational changes from page to page.
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