Welcome again to Search Engine Academy’s posts on Infrastructure Architecture (IA) and SEO. We’re getting into IA navigation. We previously talked about content organization and labeling systems in IA. If you’re not familiar with IA, go over those topics, then come on back to continue learning about navigation systems for your website.
Before you dive deep into designing your web site’s navigation system, think a little bit about the browsers that are currently in use out there in the big, bad internet. Most typically, people use Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer. These already have many built-in navigation features that everyone is familiar with.
There’s the Back and Forward buttons to move back and forth, naturally. You can click on the History button to see what sites and pages you’ve viewed previously. Bookmark allows to keep those sites we want to visit again.
So, I just wanted to remind you of these before we start getting into IA navigation systems. Ready now? Here we go.
In order to provide navigation, we have to know where we currently are. It’s also known as “we are here.” This is our reference or starting point. For complicated web sites, you absolutely must provide this context at all times. After all, it’s not the physical world we’re browsing. We can’t say, “oh, I’m right behind the Starbucks standing next to the dumpster.”
The interesting thing about web site navigation is that we can leave one site by clicking on a link and end in the middle of god knows where. We don’t always get directed to a home page. Now we may be hopelessly lost to the point we shut the browser down and start all over again!
If you’ve been reading these posts and understand SEO, then you know once again why context is so critical. Ensuring that your organization’s brand is on every single page is a good thing to help the clueless. Your navigation system should show the web visitor her current location.
A good way to do this is with the phrase “You are Here.” This allows the web visitor to orient herself at every place she surfs to. Developing and implementing a consistent navigation system is critical. You would think this is the most basic fact, but it’s easy to get lost with a large site that has hundreds of pages.
One way you can figure this out is using a really great Navigation Stress Test developed by Keith Instone. Go ahead…check it out. I bet you’ll be surprised at the results!
You want your navigation system to be flexible. I like to say “Semper Gumby” – always flexible.
A good, effective navigation system balances flexibility with what makes sense to the web visitor. Text links can be both great and horrible at this, so plan them with care. Always think context along with flexibility!
You can check the navigation function with your Google Analytics funnel system. You can also see navigation paths between your interior pages using Analytics, so be sure to look at a variety of combinations. The goal is make sure your most important pages are being visited often, and that readers are staying on each page as long as possible, with low bounce rates.
I think this is far enough along today. We’re going to cover embedded and global navigation systems in upcoming posts, so stay tuned for more IA and SEO.
Until next time…review some of your funnels and navigation sequences with different page combinations.