How many times has this happened to you? You’re navigating a website, following links and clicking on buttons and all of a sudden you’re directed to some page that’s completely unrelated to what you’re looking for. Not only are you lost, but you’re frustrated and annoyed and probably end up leaving the site without finding what you need, filling out an information request form or completing an order.
Too many times, navigation and usability decisions focus on providing as much information to users as possible, but what good is a pile of information on your website if it’s to difficult to navigate, or worse yet, drives traffic away? Instead, websites need to focus on creating a user experience that is easy and efficient for them to use, provides them with the information they want, and meets their needs and expectations. It all boils down to the users, because they’re the ones interested in what you have to offer and they’re the ones who get you conversions.
So what does it take to make your website user-friendly so you can get the traffic and conversions you need? Recently, some of our clients in the education industry posed this same question about revamping their sites. While they were getting the traffic to their sites, their conversions were not ideal, so naturally, we took a good, hard look at their website performance data and organization to figure out how to help them get those elusive conversions they so desperately sought after.
The first place we looked was the website performance data. This gave us a clear idea of how users interacted with the website by telling us where they were going and what they were looking at. For example, we immediately noticed most users were interested in our clients’ programs and courses. Users expect to be led to the information they need and if they’re mainly interested in your school’s programs that should be the first link they’re directed to, right?. However, our clients’ websites put campus information, accreditation, and history before programs. Our solution? You guessed it, reorganizing the site links to put courses and programs ahead of any other information since it’s what users are looking for and what they want to get to first.
Moving the course and programs link was just one small step of the website organization. Our clients still had a lot of links and not all of them where they needed to be. A key principle of user navigation is structure. During the review of the navigation structure we found our clients were trying to provide a direct link to EVERY page on the site from the top navigation bar. The problem this causes is that it provides too many options that overwhelm, confuse and drive away the user. Our answer to this dilemma was simple: condensing the numerous links into a handful of well-conceived options that allow users to drill down to the information they’re looking for. When users go on to a website, whether for education, ecommerce, or anything, they arrive with pre-conceived ideas of where to look for what they need based on commonly used learned behaviors. So if it works, why try to reinvent the wheel? It’s why we moved links to where users expect to find them. Programs go with programs, blogs with blogs, campus information with campus information, you get the idea. There’s no sense scattering information across the website creating a spider web of links that trap users instead of guiding them.
Having cleared away some of the cobwebs of links on the website, we turned our attention to the navigation across multiple devices. These days, users aren’t just looking up websites on their desktop. Mobile devices and tablets get just as much traffic, if not more, than their desktop counterparts and users need to be able to navigate websites as easily on their phone as they can on their computer. Portable devices lack the luxury of a mouse, therefore, functions like numerous drop down menus and fly-outs are inconvenient or flat-out don’t work on those platforms. So we minimized the amount of drop-downs and fly-outs eliminating the users’ need for a mouse. This way, users can interface with the website wherever and however they want and maybe stay engaged long enough to result in more conversions.
So what’s the point of all this redesign and reorganization? It’s all about improving user experience. Websites need to do more than just show, they need to inform and engage, especially when it comes to education. That’s why a user-focused design is paramount. If the users aren’t getting what they need and expect from your website, how can you hope to get the conversions you want from them? It’s why we educate our clients on improving navigation and creating a positive user experience because, after all, it is all about the users.