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Optimizing Your Site Menus

Internet Marketing November 1st, 2007

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I'm sure you've heard it said before-keep your web copy simple.

But what about menu links you might not think about? Ever wondered how they affect visitor interaction on your web site?

While keeping your web copy simple should be a no-brainer, many web designers and even marketers forget to think about proper English in menu links. Why confuse visitors to your web site with fancy words or images that don't convey the subject, product, or service? If you confuse your visitor, you risk losing them when they become frustrated at not being able to find what they are looking for.

Confusing your visitors with vague words and images or "fancied-up" phrases is known as "Mystery Meat Navigation", a term coined by author and usability analyst Vincent Flanders.By and large, the worst offenders are Flash designers. Many Flash designers feel the need to create wild moving images, interactive pictures and graphics, and long interoductions without the option to "Skip Introduction" or "Skip Movie". But the introduction is only part of the movie, and users may be forced to hover over scrolling images and sound triggers in order to find what they are looking for. A simple glance at the screen reveals nothing to the visitor other than the belief that they just stepped in to an art gallery.

Flanders published The 10 Worst Web Sites to Navigate in 2006, and there are a few I would like to point out as frustrating to navigate and offering almost nothing about what it is these people or companies actually do.

Cambell Mithiun is Number 6 on the list. If you can establish what this company does in 5-10 seconds, you can click quite fast. I clicked through it and found sections that, with no title, appeared totally unrelated to the industry Flanders referred to. And if you do manage to snake your way through the site and establish they provide whatever it is you need, try contacting them. Oh wait, you need to start a new portage through the site to find their contact information and email form or link.

Matthew Mahon. You figure out what he does. You have 30 seconds. And if you enter a section, you have 5 seconds to figure out how to get back to the main page, if there is one. Not only is this site poorly designed, but it has absolutely no text whatsoever. How am I supposed to know what you do if you don't tell me?

Trying to be fancy can also result in poorly-worded or designed pages.

If you were to visit the Coca-cola site, for example, and were presented with rollover images that presented words like "The Real Thing", Coca-Cola for Everyone", "The World of Coca-Cola" and "The Coca-cola Experience", do you really know what this link is about? Of course not. And if the visitor is forced to click through different areas to find what they are looking for, the company should be prepared to lose many of their visitors due to frustration.

So should your menu words be precise or wordy? Not necessarily. It might be impossible to do for a company with hundreds of products, but not always. One good example is Tiger Direct, who list in their left side menu by product type, in one to three word snippets. You could also list by category, such as "Coca-Cola Products", "Disney Movies", "Contact Us" or "Board of Directors". As long as your label tells the user exactly what they will see when they click.

Making your site as reader-friendly as possible could make the difference between a wasted visit and a contract from a lead worth thousands.

Post By Matt (47 Posts)

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A PPC extraordinaire, Mr Hogan can be found deep in the anals of PPC admins everywhere. Researching, administering and writing. Sometimes he even finds the time to contact the outside world with a blog or two.

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