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April 27, 1998 



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Good Sites: Navigation/Speed

I just received an e-mail from a colleague whose site I reviewed.   The advice I had given them was simple: make it  easier to find your  material!  You see, I couldn't find their major project, so I had very little feedback to give them (and, I admit, less-than-huge desires to find it).  This situation is common for web-site authors:  They create a site filled with interesting graphics and sounds, etc., but they make it next to impossible to find anything on their site.  Remember, the average browser doesn't have to use your site:  there are probably hundreds more just like it.  If you don't convince them quickly that they can find the information that they need, they will go somewhere else.

How to make navigation easy for your users:

Remain consistent:  place information in predictable patterns throughout your site, so that your reader does not have to guess where information might be.

Create a table of contents on the front page:  Of course your front page should be attractive enough to capture interest, and impress your readers.  However, as we have discussed previously, you must balance this attractiveness with usefulness.  Having a good, working table of contents (with links, of course) will help the reader determine if they want to view your site, and help the reader quickly access the information that most interests them.  You will have a useful site!

Place home links on EVERY page!  If the reader determines that a particular page is not quite what they are looking for, they will want to quickly return to the table of contents.  If they have to hit "back" through several pages to find the home page, they will not be happy with your site.  AND WE WANT THE READER TO BE HAPPY!

Make sure that all links are working:  The web author does not look very good at all when their links are not working.  If a link is no longer operational, take it off, before you frustrate your readers straight to the competition's pages!

Place links at the top AND bottom of the page:  If your page requires the reader to scroll down (and, incidentally, according to experts, it's a very slim percentage of readers who actually will scroll down), it is terribly annoying to have to scroll back up in order to find links to the next page. A good compromise is to place a "to the top" link at the bottom of the page so the reader can easily get to links.

Overall effect:  Overall, you want to try to guess where your readers will want/expect to find links.  For example, on these pages, I place a "to rubric" link at the bottom of the page, because I assume once the reader finishes with the text, they will want to see the rubric related with the text.

Note:  this page is called "navigation/speed" because your reader wants to be able to navigate both easily and quickly through your site.

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