07 Aug Site Unseen
I started building websites 24 years ago. Back then, I was hard pressed to find a customer.
In 1996, I worked for the first Internet cafe in Southern California called Cyber Java. I got paid six dollars an hour under the table.
After making coffee and zucchini bread – I’d often go door-to-door — up and down Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, CA selling web hosting and web sites to small business owners.
Back then I had explain.
What the heck is a website?
I had to educate small
business owners on the WHAT and the WHY of a web site.
A web site was useful because they could use it to save time and money by placing their company information on the “World Wide Web”.
Rather than hiring a receptionist to answer questions over the phone or repeating themselves they could place all the information in one place where people could log on and get the info.
Despite my sparkly enthusiasm, the small business owner often couldn’t fathom or just didn’t believe in this growing internet trend.
Now, fast forward to 2020 with billions of web sites abound, I no longer have to explain WHAT a web site is.
Now, I have to explain HOW a small business owner can stand out.
In order to bob above the sea of competitors you just don’t need a web site that you can drum up on GoDaddy or Square Space, you need to have an incredibly intuitive and branded web site that keeps customers engaged and coming back for more.
A branded web site not only is beautifully designed it also has an ethereal, unseen, intangible quality.
Every single super successful and highly converting revenue building site has one thing in common: it has an intuitive seamless user experience.
A flawless web experience is frictionless.
The content is held magically by invisible threads — a framework that holds everything effortlessly together.
To get more customers you need to keep your visitor’s attention. If they’re stumbling through your site, they’re one click away from the exit.
So, how do you do that?
How do you avoid having them click off your site?
The first thing you need to do is to master the site map.
Site maps are the most important information design tool used on a web site.
Site maps show visitors the overall structure and hierarchy of a web site.
Three Types of Site Maps
There are three different types of site maps.
The first type of site map is one that is used during the planning of a web site by a user interface designer.
The second type of site map is a menu listing based on a primary, secondary and tertiary hierarchy (which are seen by your visitors).
The third type of site map is a structured listing visible to web crawlers or robots like Google.
Site maps are crucial because they‘re used as the first step in laying out the information architecture of a web site.
Just like a home needs a solid blueprint, detailing the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a site map provides the framework upon which to start building your new site.
Unlike a home which can have limited rooms, a site can have unlimited pages.
But just because you have unlimited pages doesn’t mean that you should have unlimited links on your menu or site map.
Our best practice based on over 20 years of experience is to limit your main navigation to seven to nine main navigation links.
For the rest of this article we’re gonna be focusing on the second type of site map I mentioned above which is the one that’s visible to your visitors.
The site map or menu are made up of primary and secondary links (sometimes tertiary links).
Primary menu links are the links that show up on the web site usually on the horizontal navigation line.
Secondary links are links that are nested within (underneath) the primary links. When these secondary links drop down (along with a tertiary links) we call that element a mega menu.
Main menu navigation links should always link to other web pages.
You should never for example directly link one of your main navigation links to a PDF or a video.
Why? Because visitors have already been taught by visiting other sites that once you click on a link you will he taken to a page.
When you don’t follow the conventional rules – it would be like creating a door that leads to a brick wall. It’s confusing and makes visitors uncomfortable.
Another element we add in our web sites is something we call “redundant links”.
Having redundant links or content are perfectly fine to implement on your web site.
That’s why we often encourage clients to put links in the menu on the functional footer at the bottom of the site.
Visitors don’t all navigate these web sites in the same way.
They may jump to the bottom of your site, may come in from another landing page, or navigate your menu linearly from left to right.
So having links in various places helps with the overall navigability of a site.
Another site map best practice is to list the most important links from left to right.
We also recommend having the Contact link as the last link of a primary menu. The contact link is one of most sought out links by potential clients and returning visitors.
The biggest mistake I see on sites is not having a sticky navigation bar. A fixed navigation bar on your website can help users get around much quicker and also keeps your logo and branding front and center.
This element alone can drastically enhance the user-experience, especially for websites that have a lot of scrolling.
Normally, visitors need to scroll all the way back to the top of a website to get back to the main navigation so having a back to top element also helps make this journey effortless.
Earlier we mentioned a functional footer. So, just what is a functional footer?
The functional footer of your site is a valuable element on a web site and is placed at the bottom of your site.
The functional footer can serve a valuable purpose by encouraging users to interact and browse through your most important links before exiting out.
Having an excellent footer will increase page views and help promote your site and brand.
It is important to keep the footer organized, so that users can find information quickly.
We recommend placing these functional footer links in columns each of these columns should be organized In a way that allows visitors to understand quickly how to navigate your site.
For example, you may want to have a Connect column where you list out how visitors can engage with you. Under a Connect column you may want to include links such as contact, book a call or your social media links.
A functional footer is a great way to add dynamism to your site while still offering those who are nearing the end of your page content to get more involved with your company.
Another way to make your site intuitive is to have several calls to action.
What’s a Call to Action?
A Call to action (CTA) refers to any link or module designed to prompt a rapid response.
A CTA most often refers to the use of words or phrases that make visitors do something.
It could be to download a chapter of your book, in exchange for an email address, or respond in a live chat.
Another incredibly useful element that we like to include in our sites it’s something that we call a sticky button.
A simple button floats or sticks to the side of your site as your visitor scrolls.
On our Citrus Studios site, for example we have a sticky button that also serves as a CTA. The Work with Us button leads to a simple page with a link to a form.
I could go on and on but I’ll leave it here for now.
As a small business owner, it’s important for you to utilize these best practices so that you can make your website go a long way.
Your website can help catapult your company into high performance.
A dynamic web site gives information to your clients while you’re busy doing your core work. It can also make money for you while you sleep.
Make sure that you spend the time to create a great site map, functional footer, and call to actions and watch your revenue grow!
If you need help with building a branded web site just contact me, I’d be happy to help!
“Design Is Thinking Made Visual”
Kalika circa 1997
“Great Design is all the work you don’t ask people to do”