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Website Design Help: Planning out Navigation

An important challenge any new website faces is its navigation. Poor navigation will always lead to website failure. If someone cannot find what they are looking for, they will leave. If someone is lost on your website, they aren’t going to do be doing any business with you. Today we will look at some website design tips to help you decide what your navigation should be, what it does and what it says.

What is the end goal of the website design process?

In this example we will look at an imaginary website for a company that sells professional services. Our example website design will look at a CPA website. We will create a scenario in which the CPA company is relatively small, 4-6 employees. We will also imagine that the company does both personal and business accounting work. How should this company decide what to put on their navigation? It all starts with what is the intent of the website design process. In our imaginary example we will suppose the web designs’ end goal is to market the business to capture new clients.

Define your data

Our imaginary CPA decides it will just be a simple, one tier menu. The CPA wants to stress that it does Personal Accounting, and Business Accounting and wants to showcase pages for each of these topics in the web design. These will be the most important pages on the site in the opinion of the CPA. The CPA also wants a staffing page to showcase their talent, a page that is dedicated to their process, a page for Frequently Asked Questions, a page for CPA news and tax dates, and finally a contact page.

Vocabulary

How you title your navigation is very important. You need to convey to the end user just what it is they are about to click. In seemingly direct conflict with this precision is the reality of real estate on a navigation bar, there isn’t much. We need to be both precise and concise in our choice of words. Lets look at the two distinct services this company offers: Personal Accounting and Business Accounting. Some possible titles could be just what they are “Personal Accounting” and “Business Accounting”. The issue with these comes down to length, the end user is on a CPA site, so we must assume they are already somewhat keyed into what the general topic of the site is, so the word “Accounting” really doesn’t need to be there, it is inferred. Now lets explore some possible names for each of these topic titles. Personal, Individual, For you, Personalized are all possible names for the page targeting the individual markets. Personal and Individual are certainly the most common accepted names in this industry, and thus should be considered the top contenders. However if we wanted to get a little “creative” we could also consider “For You” with the forethought that next to it we could label the page that is targeting businesses as “For Your Business”. In our imaginary meeting we are going to come to the conclusion that our group choose “Individual” and “Business” as the key labels for their two most important pages.

Whats the Order?

The order matters. There is an effect called the Serial Position Effect that in short describes that people tend to remember items in the beginning and the end of a series. So what is the most important part of this navigation? It is marketing to both business and personal accounting. Let’s go back to our imaginary scenario and assume the CPA has advised that it would rather get Businesses as clients rather than individuals, but ultimately having both in important. Armed with the data, we would advise the navigation order to be:
Business – Individual – Our Staff – News/Tax Dates – FAQs – Our Process – Contact Us.
Note that the 2 bookend items have been deemed to be the most important aspects of the site. First, it is capturing our important “Business” client and second, it is getting the people to Contact us. Making yourself aware of the Serial Position Effect can make the order of your navigation fairly easy to dictate.

As with any topic, there are certainly additional items to consider when creating a navigation for a website, but these are the ones that are at the top of our list when we start the navigation discussion with our clients.