Organize Your Web Content!

August 7, 2017

Quick! Where's That Phone Number?

Have you ever been frustrated that you can’t find something on a website? Something that should be super easy like a phone number? Yeah, us too.

How does this happen? The all-too-common truth is that websites are often organized and written from an internal perspective, with internal language and internal notions of “how we’ve always done it.”

This is not okay.

If You Make Them Think, They Will Leave

Your customers are in a hurry. They don’t want to think about where something may be found - they want clear information at their fingertips. If your site can’t provide this, they will leave for your competition.

Test these simple things on your site.

  • Can you find what you’re looking for in 2-3 clicks?
  • If you search for something on your site, are the results what you’d expect?
  • Is your site using predictive search? (Google-style suggestions that appear as you type.)
  • Ask someone unfamiliar with your site to find something that should be easy to find. A parent or grandparent might be a good person to ask.

A Well-Organized Site Is Useable

A hat is useable. You see it and know you can put it on your head. Your site content should be that clear to your customers. Where they think they’ll find something is where they do. What you say makes sense to them.

Steve Krug in his now classic and very readable book, Don’t Make Me Think, gives many great ideas on how to increase the usability of your site through website organization techniques. Here are a few:

  • Visual Hierarchy. Arrange your content in a way that your customers' eyes go to the most important point first, the next most important next, etc. The following article goes more in-depth on this.
  • Conventions. Sure, you want a site that looks stunning, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to do that. Your customers are used to seeing webpage elements in certain places or ways: for example, a menu across the top of your site - or as a pulldown on the mobile version. Give them what they expect. Here are some good Web Conventions.
  • The Grid. We are always seeking patterns. It helps us to organize. It helps us feel comfortable. Organizing your web content in a grid helps your customer to know where they are and how to get to that next bit of information. Here is a good introduction to grids.
  • Persistent Navigation. Also called “Sticky” Navigation, this industry design standard means your menu stays visible even as you scroll down the page - like what you see on this page. It also means, for the most part, your menu uses the same links.

A Well-Organized Site Is Concise

Okay, so all that well-crafted content you or your team spent hours on will most likely not be read - it will be scanned. So how do you catch and hold that roving eye?

  • Say What You Mean - Simply. Which is better? "Opportunities," "Career Opportunities" or "Careers"? “Opportunities” could be any opportunity. “Career Opportunities” is much clearer, but “Careers” is equally as clear with one less word. This is especially true for your navigation.
  • A Paragraph Is One Main Idea. Can you sum up your paragraph in a word or two or at least in a topic sentence?
  • Topic Sentence. This expresses the main idea of your paragraph. Sometimes your topic sentence is your paragraph.
  • Sensible Words. Use words that make sense to your audience. If you must use a term that is not generally known, explain it.
  • Stop When You’ve Said It. After you've polished what you've written as best you can, ask yourself - or better yet, someone else - what sentences in each paragraph explain your idea best? Throw out the rest.

Remember: Your customers are in a hurry. Organize your content in a way that gives them what they want fast and keeps them coming back.

Here’s to your successful website!

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