Great looking website—Shame I can’t find what I want
The company was proud of its new corporate website. And the new pages certainly looked modern and fresh, thanks to the time and money that had been spent on development. But there was a problem, and it wasn’t discovered until the site had gone live. Put bluntly, site visitors couldn’t find what they wanted on the site and the reason for this was simple – the website was hard to navigate.
The above example is hypothetical, but I often come across issues like this. I used to think basic navigation issues were confined to creaking sites long past their use-by date, but brand new sites can have the same problem. The reasons for this can vary. Sometimes a company is so eager to revamp an old site, or so keen to include all the latest web ideas, they overlook the not-so-exciting nuts and bolts of good site navigation. And this can be a big mistake, because if a visitor can’t find what they’re looking for (and fast), they’re not going to find all the stuff companies want them to see.
So how can you find out if your website is easy to navigate? For this purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on stakeholder areas and share some brief tips on how to ensure visitors have a good navigation experience.
1. Don’t forget first impressions – Are the main stakeholder sections clearly signposted on your home page? I know this may sound obvious, but put on the shoes of a site visitor and take a look at your home page and compare it with something like Allergan’s homepage.
2. Keep everything where it should be – Don’t split stakeholder content. If a visitor is looking for core “About Us” content, they’re going to expect to find it in one place (and not spread over separate stakeholder areas, like a website I reviewed recently).
3. Don’t confuse the site visitor – It may sound like an original idea to call your key stakeholder sections something other than “About” or “Media”, but whatever you call them, it must be a recognisable pointer for the site visitor. Remember – a confused site visitor is going to be a past visitor very shortly.
4. Don’t hide your strengths – If your company has a great innovation story to tell, don’t hide it with a brief reference in your “About” pages. Invest in a specific section that stands on its own in the home page top navigation menu (like Eni). The same applies for businesses with an impressive corporate governance record.
5. Make a list – Pick a specific stakeholder section (e.g. “About”) and then write down what you’d expect to find there (don’t cheat and look at your own site first). Best practice recommends a broad range of useful and engaging content. Then go up back to your own website and compare what’s on your list to what’s there. If visitors can’t find everything they expect to see in a stakeholder area, they’re likely to look elsewhere on your site. And if they can’t find it elsewhere, that might be the last you see of them!
6. Avoid navigation jolts – Many companies use links to company reports (either in HTML or PDF) to provide additional stakeholder content, in sections like CSR or corporate governance. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this approach, provided the report content at the end of the link is of good quality. If it isn’t, this can create a jolt in the viewing experience of the visitor. And if the report content doesn’t look very good on the screen, it can look unprofessional.
I’ve only scratched the surface here regarding best practice for stakeholder navigation. And I’ve not even touched on all the other aspects of making a website easy to get around. The good news is that we’re happy to share what we know about all these things at Corporate Eye. So if you’re not sure if your website passes the navigation test, drop us a line and we’ll let you know!