Today eCommerce is essential, and for those of us who want to keep our online presence thriving our websites must be in tip-top shape. You may be sitting there thinking that your site is sitting pretty, but do you really know what your audience experiences while trying to meander through your site?
In a recent article, I read on the website CIO, I learned about some helpful ways to improve website navigation and design. In the article (13 Simple Tips for Improving Your Web Design), Jennifer Lonoff Schiff explains to readers that poor navigation can be the reason your viewers are leaving your website.
But as I was reading the 13 rules I couldn’t help but feel that one rule in particular needed more emphasis than the others, and that is intuitive navigation.
Intuitive Navigation Is King
Intuitive navigation is listed as the second tip in CIO’s article, but really it should be number one. I was surprised because intuitive navigation is an essential part of the user’s experience. If users cannot easily find what they are looking for, they will get frustrated and abandon the site. So I am diving deeper into this essential website improvement tip.
Intuitive web design means that users have the most optimal experience possible while traveling a website. While designing a website, you want to try and predict the various reasons visitors explore your website and the tasks your visitors will be completing. It helps to take a step back and pretend that you are new to the site. You want to make sure that everything the user tries to accomplish is effortless and occurs without barriers. It can be hard to describe intuitive design because it isn’t one design or another, or really visible at all. It just means that your user can get from point A to point B without any obvious issues. One of the most important tips for intuitive design is making sure action items are very visible.
Let’s say on your website users can purchase a variety of handmade scarfs. For optimal user experience, it would be easy for users to view any and all of your scarves, be able to search and filter, and eventually make a successful purchase. So what if while shopping for a scarf someone wants to read a review? Do they have to then leave your website? Will they then find another seller? To avoid this particular barrier it would be ideal to include reviews on your site for your consumers. This is just one tiny example, and the recommendations can be different for every site depending on the user experience.
An important part of many websites is the checkout or purchase process. What happens once your consumer decides he or she wants to buy your product? When your user is ready to purchase he or she should easily be able to select the merchandise and proceed to check out. This is a delicate process and you want to make sure any and all questions are answered along the way so that the purchaser doesn’t have to leave the page or feel uncomfortable in the purchase. This means predicting any issues or questions your purchasers may have and answering them along the way.
The End Goal?
The end goal of this process has everything to do with the concept of “current knowledge” vs. “target knowledge.” This means that if your site has successful navigation, users will be able to get to your target knowledge (e.g. buying a bike) with their current knowledge. With only a simple goal in mind, any user should be able to get to the end goal without a hitch. This successful process is called bridging the knowledge gap.
So How, You Ask?
An article (Intuitive Web Design: How to Make Your Website Intuitive to Use) on ConversionXL, gives some important insight.
There are two main approaches: field studies or observation usability tests.
- Field studies are when you observe how your audience naturally uses the website without any interaction on your part. You can gain valuable information about how users perceive your content and navigation. You may realize through this process that you are missing a step or you aren’t thinking through the process as a new user.
- Observation usability tests are where you observe users while instructing them on specific tasks to complete. In this approach, you can monitor exactly how an individual would work his or her way through finding a specific item or purchasing a product. You may realize new improvements to streamline user experience with the guidance of some new users.
Intuitive navigation is much more of a strategic process then it is a technological process. And, intuitive design isn’t visible to the user, it is experienced by the user. So, take some time today and evaluate your website. Do you think your users are able to complete all their tasks efficiently? Are there any barriers as your users navigate through your site? Do they get lost at any point? It is important to know the answers to these and many more questions. By keeping your user experience top priority, great web design will follow.
Some Other Tips
- Have a your logo present on each page and have it linked to your homepage.
- Always have a contact option in your top navigation and the footer.
- Have consisteny design
- Make sure your links stand out
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