Treat #2 – Don’t Let Your Site Navigation Be a Nightmare

This is an entry in our HALLoween Blog series. Each week leading up to Halloween 2010 we will treat you with internet marketing topics that have a fun and spooky flare.

There are not many people that love the Halloween season more than I do! I look forward to the costumes, candy, decorations, and even all those cheesy horror movies where the victims are trying to escape but always end up going in the wrong direction. Whether they are running upstairs in a house (really, where are you going to exit up there?), running into random objects or getting lost in the midst of a dark spooky graveyard, it is always entertaining to yell at the TV and throw up your hands in disgust.

You know if you were in that situation you would never do that, right? Well apply this situation to your website and think again. Your navigation may be leading visitors down some frightening pathways…

You can never escape me!
Photo Credit: Terry McCombs

The Dead End

One of the most common “escape” routes for a horror victim is running to another part of the house, which always ends up being a dead end. Are visitors on your website hitting dead ends? Take a look at your site navigation and ask the same questions as our typical damsel in distress: Where am I? Did I already try that door? Where can I go now?

Visitors to your site should always have a clear understanding of where they are located so highlight links in the navigation to make it quick and easy to see what page you are on. If your site has multiple levels, breadcrumbs (not the kind Hansel and Gretel left) are one helpful way of showing visitors where they have been by listing pages and providing an easy way to navigate back and look at more information.

To let visitors know where they should go next, consider grouping your links into different sections. Visitors will then be able to navigate to the various areas of your site and can see only links from that section when they are in there. It will make it much easier for them to take in your site.

All Those Random Obstacles

Why is it that when trying to escape a killer, an escapee will trip over a chair or some other random object that was never around before? Visitors to you site can have a similar experience if your navigation is not accessible. Menus with cool effects may look neat, but can get in the way of a user’s experience. You want your navigation menu to work in all situations; if javascript is turned off, if someone with special needs views your site, if the internet connection is slow… Your navigation is how people move around your site, so make sure it works correctly in all browsers in all situations!

That Spooky Graveyard

Once you start cleaning up your links and organizing content, you may find that, like the spooky graveyard, you are seeing a lot of ghosts and creature hiding behind those gravestones. Happening upon a really old page of information that you had forgotten was on your site can be just as terrifying! It is important to keep all of your content in the open by not hiding it through difficult navigation. Going through and exterminating all of that content might be scary, but it spares the embarrassment of a visitor finding outdated information.

Why Are You Going There?! Noooo!!!

You don’t want to be screaming at your visitors when they are navigating your site in the way you did not intend! Take advice from the horror movies and make it easy for visitors by making it obvious where they are, where they have been, and where they should go. Highlight sections of content that people will be interested in checking out, and will not be overwhelmed by. This will put the graveyard in to the light of day for them, and make for a less stressful experience for you!

Read the rest of the HALLoween blog series