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U-C WEBS' founder Nardo KuitertBy Nardo Kuitert, U-C WEBS
[Published in The Wellington Advertiser, June 2009 for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce]

Many companies are designing their websites these days. Their websites have been around for a while and need a fresh coat of paint, an increased desire for sales leads has prompted them to look at optimizing their online sales and promotion funnels, or they want to add new features such as video or a blog. Reviewing your current site should be step one in this process, in order to avoid transferring parts of your site that don’t work onto the new site.

So: are you confusing your website visitors?

Many websites leave a lot to be desired. Start by looking at your site’s navigation:

  1. Consistent navigation – Your navigation needs to be consistent, so people can always find their way back – and forward. Too many sites have main or sub-navigation that is there on one page, and gone the next. Avoid situations like “Where did that link go? I saw it just a few pages ago…”
  2. Visible navigation – You know the type: a website that looks beautiful, or funky, but where the ### is the navigation? And then, when you are about to move the page in frustration you move your mouse overtop of the page, and see the hidden navigation. Navigation should look like navigation, and always be visible – your visitors rely on it. I’ve said it often before: cute is confusing.
  3. Clear labelling – The menu items should say something to the user – in their language. So if you are trying to be funny, cool or mysterious…your visitors will likely leave. People can’t find their way around if they don’t know what it is that you’re talking about, of if they are not patient enough to find out. Use simple terms, and often it is OK to be boring. There is nothing funky about a link called “About Us”, but everybody DOES know what you mean. Overly fancy word use in the content of your site is also recommended against; people searching for certain things in the search engines or on your site will not use these phrases, and therefore will not use your site.
  4. Banner blindness – Don’t place your navigation close to something that looks like a banner, or make your navigation itself look like a banner. People have taught themselves to tune these overly commercial areas out, so they will not see your navigation even though you put it there.

And the best advice of all, of course, is to have someone look over your old site, and your new site, to give you a fresh perspective – your visitors’ perspective.

Nardo Kuitert is an Internet Consultant with Fergus Website Development and Optimization firm U-C WEBS (www.u-cwebs.com). U-C WEBS also offers Internet advertising opportunities on www.ferguspages.com. (link opens in a new window)

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