How important is it that visitors find what they want in your website?
How about they find what you want them to find? Very important, right?
The thing is, when it comes to planning their website, most people don’t, and with lack of planning, comes lack of organization. Without organization, it’s hard to navigate your website.
Poor navigation is one of the principal reasons for high bounce rates (the percentage of visitors who, upon entering the website “bounce”, or leave, instead of browsing through the site). If this is the case, the only good news is many visitors will leave your website before their head explodes.
Reading Your Visitor’s Mind
How does one design a website navigation that is effective? Very simple, read their minds. No, you don’t need superpowers, you just read the cards.
Card sorting is an easy technique from user experience design. You know, people whose job it is to design information architectures like website navigation.
Here’s what you do:
- Make a set of index cards with a term for each website section or offering.
- Show to a person (or use yourself) to put into logical groups.
- Name these groups.
- Repeat with other people (not too many, no need to go crazy here).
- Analyze results to determine your navigation.
I found this great little video that explains the concept:
If you’d rather go hi-tech (and/or stakeholders are spread across the globe or something), there are a few online tools available. These caught my eye:
These are professional tools, and offer all sorts of analysis add-ons. They’re also paid tools. They offer a free demo, which very well could be all you need to get the hang of it.
If you want to keep it simple (and cheaper), but still want online tools for collaboration, you may want to take a look at an online whiteboard like Realtime Board. It has a free option that should be very helpful in doing a card sort online. It has a bit of a learning curve, but, hey, did I mention there’s a free option?
One method I like to use is mind-mapping.
The way mind-mapping works, you can just enter the information first (categories, sections, you name it), and then organize and re-organize it by dragging around the working area.
My favorite mind-mapping software is MindNode(Mac only). There is a limited-feature free version, and a powerful paid version.
Of course, there’s like a bajillion mind-mapping applications out there. Check the list at Wikipedia.
Don’t be shy. Give any of these methods and tools a shot, and you’ll see how much easier it is to build a usable website.
Let me know how it works for you,
Much has changed in the tools available since I first wrote this article. While the general principles of planning and organizing your website remain, some new tools shine in their ability to accommodate the many disciplines of website planning and design.
One that stands out is Milanote. Think of Milanote as an ever-expanding board to organize visually. One can have simple lists (say, pages or content needed on a site) or use for digital card-sorting, create moodboards that will inform the look-and-feel of a site, and actually use it to project manage building a site.
Take a look at it. You’ll love it.