User Friendly Navigation

A few suggestions on site navigation

So many designs to choose from for navigation, and not all of them equal. I have tried a million of them personally I think. :)

User friendly navigation, what does this mean ? It means to make it easy to get around your site. By and large most people surf a site in a matter of seconds per page .. if they can't find the links to what they seek, right now, they are history. If they have to figure it out, forget it.

Java hide em bars:

Like the latest thing, side bar navigation. Where it hides the whole thing in a java bar on the side. Not a wise move in my opinion. The first time I found one of these, I wondered if the party had only the web ring page ! They applied to a web ring of mine and I literally couldn't find the navigation to get off the page ! I had to write the web master and ask them how to view the rest of the site. Most people would just give up and go away. If you use one of these, make sure the part of the side bar image that does show is VERY easy to see and make a point to write up that it's over there in the main text of the page.

Image Maps:

Image mapping, which is very interesting stuff, I have built a few for clients, but I always put text links as well. Why ? Because a lot of people surf with images off for one thing, Things go a lot faster with no call to image. Try it sometime you will be amazed at how fast you can surf.

So if your whole navigation is linked to an image and the image is not called, no navigation is possible. And it makes it very hard for search engines to spider it properly for the same reason, spiders don't read images, so it can not spider the site. Always back up image maps with text link navigation.

Colors and sizing for text links:

Can't read the thing, this one happens ... a lot. Either the color scheme is bad, to where the text link is hard to see, or the font is so small ,that even with my glasses I can't read it. If I have to lean into the screen and squint to see it. Never mind, whatever it is, is not worth the headache to try and figure out .

Check the site in several browser's and several screen resolution's before you decide on a font size and colors. Everybody's monitor is set up a little differently. We all want the site to look nice but better just a tad large and bright, than too dull, too small or mismatched colors. If the party can't read it, they will never stick around to see what you have.

Be Consistent:

I know ,I know, consistency can be boring, but better a little boring, than the viewer having to figure out on every page how they are supposed to navigate. Once you have chosen a way, stick with it. That way no matter what page they go to, they will know where to look for the next page in line or how to go back.

Return to home link:

Must must must have a back link on all pages. Ok why you ask, they have a back button on their browser right ? Yes they do however, not everybody comes to the page from your index or some other linked page. Very often, they find the page in question right off the engines. If the page has no back link it's blind, meaning there is NO WAY to your site from it.

I run into this one all the time and it's frustrating ,as I like what I am reading and want to see more, but I can't because unless their web address or name of site is on that page, I now have no idea what site it belongs to other than the URL itself, which may or may not help me.

This one happens on example and large view pages a lot. Again, it's a mistake, you have trapped the viewer in a no way out, but back from whence they came situation. If they come in on it by another means but your site. Which happens all the time ..

No Title:

I am just as guilty of this, as the next person until I realized how important they are, but why title the page ? So they know what to expect for one. I absolutely hate the build online sites that tend to call the pages by a number, as you have no idea what the page is about. Neither do the engines or your viewer.

On your site there may be a explanatory link, but again, not all viewers are coming off your site to find the page. And if they want to bookmark the page, having it titled as what it is, makes it a lot easier to remember than, say page 2 ! For large view images and the like, this is fine but not for your main pages. No one ever reads the file name, but everybody knows the title you give it.

Alt text and title text:

Spiders don't read images. But they can read text. The alt text , put with an image, tells the browser what's there, even if the image does not show up. Or for example: someone who is visually impaired, they can't see the button that says Next, but if there is alt text they can, as their special {read it to me browser} will tell them.

Title text: 

Is the same thing, if the link, just says link they don't know what to expect. Title text will pop up and tell them " All about me and my dog". There is also the fact that such text, since it is readable by spiders is a good way to beef up your key words legitimately.

May these tips serve you well
More soon

Return to how to design a website