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Web News & Tips - Issue #224

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Good Web Design: The Importance of Navigation

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Good Web Design: The Importance of Navigation

By Debra Bellmaine

A well-designed website has many facets: gorgeous graphics,cool animations, drop-down menus, and of course, relevant content. Another important feature, often overlooked, is a good, solid navigation scheme.

I review many sites every week. A confused or non-existent method of finding the content contained within the site is a clear indicator of a budget or home-grown site. A well-designed website is a great equalizer—who would know that your company has only 5 staff when your website is slick and your customers can find your products with ease? On the other hand, a site that makes finding the order page a hunt for buried treasure, will urge the visitor to leave your site and buy elsewhere. Minimally, it sends a strong signal that your company is unprofessional, and purchasing from you could be risky.

When considering the best navigation plan for your website, first make a list of the most important, or highest-level, divisions of your site's content. For example, if your site promotes your services, plus sells a product, has helpful information and articles, and provides a demo of a product or service, you may want to arrange your menu with these main headings:

Order Products
Consulting Services
Product Demos
Contact Us

Some of the headings listed above may be further subdivided, such as a list of articles, or a list of available product demos. There are many examples of menu systems that drop-down, or cascade, to reveal more selections within a category.

Your site will, no doubt, have pages that don't really need to be included in the main navigation scheme, but which must be accessible nonetheless. This could include your Terms of Agreement, Privacy Policy, or Additional Links pages. The footer links (the text links normally included at the bottom of the page) are an excellent location for web pages that are important, but which might clutter your website’s message.

Additionally, your site may have some nice feature that should be highlighted and easy to find. Using the example from above, your site may have a "Search" function that is useful for visitors to find specific products or information. In this case, put the Search field and button at the top of the page, perhaps embedded in the banner area. Make it visible! Don't bury it two thirds down the page, where your visitor will see it after they've already spent 10 minutes looking for what they are trying to find.

In a nutshell, your website's navigation should consider the following: from any page on the site, can a new visitor to the site easily and intuitively find their way around the site? Will that visitor feel comfortable moving around on your site? Can they find the Home page again? Is your contact information readily accessible from the pages where it is needed the most? Most importantly, can the visitor quickly and easily locate the product and/or services you are selling?

If the answer is not "Yes," your website's navigation needs some redesign. Don't despair—if you have good, relevant content this may not be a huge project. And reworking the menu and navigation may be just what your website needs to communicate the professionalism and quality for which your business should be known.

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Web News

American computer users are moving beyond their desks, as findings from The NPD Group indicate that May 2003 was the first time the dollar sales of notebook computers surpassed the dollar sales of desktop computers in U.S. 

Retail computer product sales posted their best year-over-year sales results in nearly four years, jumping 13.6 percent over May 2002 to nearly $500 million. Laptops accounted for 54 percent of the share — more that double January 2000's sales volume of 25 percent. Unit volumes also set a record in May 2003 as notebooks accounted for more than 40 percent of sales. 

An in-depth study of people unaware how pay-for-placement search found that they are surprised, and often negative, when they find out how paid listings work. 

After choosing 17 individuals, some of them very Web savvy but unaware of pay-for- placement search, the researchers interviewed them about their search habits. They then explained the pay-for-placement business model, and pointed out explanatory pages on the search engines' Web sites, gauging consumer reactions. 

Using pre-and post-"enlightenment" interviews, and observations about these people's searching behavior, Consumer WebWatch concluded that consumers lose trust in search engines that do not clearly mark paid listings as advertisements. The group suggests search companies consider stricter labeling practices, such as eschewing the term "sponsored" sites or matches for "paid advertisements" in the header for paid results. 

Job losses in the high-tech sector decline again in June 2003, as the overall U.S. job market got some much-needed relief from the layoffs that had been ravaging it for more than a year now. 

The computer industry lost 3,473 jobs in June, while telecommunications lost 5,528. The two sectors combined lost 54,278 jobs between January and May 2003. That is 67 percent fewer cuts than the 165,391 logged in the same five-month period last year, reports Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm that tracks job cuts and hiring trends. 

If the rest of 2003 is anything like the first five months, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) says it should have no trouble reaching its double-digit estimates for the year. 

Based on its Global Sales Report, the San Jose, Calif.-based trade group says May marks the third in a row with good strong growth. The survey said worldwide chip sales totaled $12.50 billion in May 2003. That is up 2 percent from the $12.26 billion in revenue reported a month earlier and up 9.9 percent from May 2002 revenue of $11.38 billion. 

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