Does your website need an instruction manual?

Let’s compare a website and a book. Both are multi-page documents containing information you want your audience to read. But you don’t need to tell a reader how to access pages in a book. The reader already knows how: you open the book and turn the pages. With websites, it may not be so obvious. If the information architecture — the arrangement and relationship of the pages — isn’t logical, or the navigation menu isn’t easy to find or easy to use, the visitor will likely do one thing: depart.

Some things to ask about your website:

  • Who is your audience?
  • Does the information architecture reflect your audiences needs and interests?
  • Does the navigation clearly express the website architecture?
  • Are the navigation tools easy to find, in a place where the visitor expects to find them?
  • Does the visitor immediately know their location in your website when they arrive on a new page?
  • Is the navigation dependent on “plug-in” code such as Flash? If so, visitors lacking the Flash plug-in will not see anything, unless you also have alternative coding.

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FACT OF THE MONTH

The Kentucky Derby might just as easily have been called the Kentucky Bunbury. Our country’s most famous horse race was named after the English Derby. The English Derby was named for Lord Derby — he won a coin toss with the Earl of Bunbury.