Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Site Navigation and Consistency

This past week I started working on a client’s BtoB web site that was slowly disappearing from Google. About a year ago they had upgraded the site to a new design, including a new navigation system. One of the key objectives of the new navigation system was that it be consistent throughout the web site. One of the major problems with this site was that consistency.

The top level navigation is a series of tabs. The tabs are in a single graphic with an image map providing the links. I’m not particularly fond of using image maps, but they have their place when used correctly. The problem in this case was that there was no ALT text. Each link in an image map should have ALT text describing the destination of the link. The ALT text is useful to both the visitor and search engine spiders

To be consistent, the links under each tab used the same link text for all products. The result is link text with generic words such as: description, benefits, supplies and support. It is exactly the same for every product. While a visitor will read the page title and understand what description the link leads to, a search spider just sees the word “description”. This does not help achieve the objective of having the product page (the description page) rank high in the search results. To help acvhieve high rankings the product name should be a part of the link text, such as:

Widget Description
Widget Supplies
Widget Support

The web site sells a variety of products. As a result, the amount and type of information for each product varies. The “Overview” tab had four subcategories: Description, Supplies, Specifications and Ordering. For many products there were important pages that did not fit one of these categories such as: cost comparisons, testimonials and information about options. Links to these pages were buried under a Miscellaneous tab.

When there is information that is important in helping the customer make a purchasing decision, that information needs to be up front, visible and easy to access. In this case, having the flexibility to add a fifth and six link under the “Overview” tab will make information that is a part of the purchasing decision noticeable and easy to access.

Summary: Having consistency in a web site navigation system is important, but don’t let the goal of constancy override the main objective of the page--that of generating leads or bringing in sales.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home