Tuesday, June 17, 2008

SEO Material Part - 4

Navigation necessities

What is navigation?

Navigation is the use of text and images (or any other method) to guide a user through your site. It's a way to connect the different parts of your site and help the user choose where to go.

Helping your visitors

People who visit your site are probably looking for a specific product or piece of information. Studies show the average web surfer has a short attention span; after three or four pages your visitor will probably move on to another site. By making it easier for visitors to find information you increase the amount of time they'll spend on your site. Needless to say, if you have an online store, you're also increasing the probability that users will buy your products.

Encouraging users to hang around your site can also help your search engine rankings. Some search engines use stickiness, or the amount of time users remain on a site, as a factor in composing their rankings. An easily navigable site will tend to be "stickier" than a confusing one.

Navigation basics

Sites generally employ text or images for navigation. Each has benefits. Text loads fast and is easy to understand, while images appear more aesthetically pleasing and professional. Most sites combine text and image links to appear both professional and user-friendly.

Usability gurus recommend you give users more than one option for navigation. As you look around the web you'll notice that many sites supplement image navigation with text links at the bottom of each page.

Too many web designers fail to signpost their navigation effectively. If you have text links, make sure they're a different color, font or size -- anything to make them stand out. You should also make link images easy to identify. Place a border around them or add some text underneath. Don't make your visitors look for links; differentiate them from the rest of your site.

Play it big

Where would you expect a newspaper to place a top story? You probably know it belongs on the front page, above the fold. Treat navigation as a top story; it's one of the most important parts of your site.

About 85% of site traffic comes from search engines, many of which index all the pages on your site. That means there's a good possibility that your visitors will enter your site from a page other than your home page. Therefore, it's important to place navigation elements on the first screen of every page.

Elements of great navigation

These three elements are a must-have for all sites, especially large ones. They're what people look for when they can't find what they're looking for.

  1. Help or FAQ page
    This is a general requirement for good site design. As far as navigation goes, this page tells how to find your product or information center and how to get to the site map.
  2. Site map
    The user should be able to access a textual or graphical representation of your site's structure. Your map should include every single page on your site, usually categorized for easier navigation. Site maps not only make it easier for people to find the information they're looking for, they also provide a great way to make sure that search engines, which follow links, index every page.
  3. Search function
    Make your site searchable. If your site is large or sells a variety of products, the search feature will be of great use. If your site is small, a search function may not be necessary. Most medium-sized sites (500 pages or less) need a search function. If you're watching your budget, look for a search site that will provide you with search capabilities free of charge.

Consistency is key

Whether you use images or text for your navigation, consistency is very important. Be consistent both within your site and in regard to prevailing standards across the web.

  1. Same thing, same place
    Use a similar layout throughout your site so it's as easy to navigate as possible. If your navigation is located at the top of your home page it should also be at the top of all your other pages.
  2. You and the world
    Your visitors will expect your site to look and work about the same as most other web sites. If everyone else is using a shopping cart as a symbol for the ordering section, so should you. Keep your navigation standard; include sections such as company info and a contact page to make the visitor feel comfortable.

An Overview


  • Can make your site stickier
  • Should be placed on every page
  • Must be consistent
  • Is aided by help pages, a site map and a search function

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