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The Clear Guide to Online Business Step Seven in Developing a Web Site
By Virginia Lawrence
After deciding on your goal and your target market, you have written the text to attract that group of site visitors. Now it’s time to actually start designing the site.
Step 7. Site Navigation
The navigation should be very clear. No site visitor wants to spend time trying to figure out how to get from the front page to the order page.
The main navigation links should be in a row high up on the page, or in a left-hand column. That’s where people expect to find the navigation links. Yes, if you’re a great designer, and you want to show off your skills, you can put the navigation links elsewhere. Link location should be a conscious decision. As usual, consider the target market. If your site is aimed at showcasing and selling books, you want to have links in one of the simplest locations, near the top or left side of the page.
You should have the major navigation links on every page. When you keep the page navigation consistent, you make site visitors comfortable. They know that they can always get back to the first page or find any other page when they need it.
You need at least one set of links that are simply text links. The search engines need these links, and people who roam the Web with graphics turned off need these links. Also, they are helpful for disabled people using site readers. Text links are perfectly acceptable as the main navigation links for a site.
If you want a jazzier set of links, use small graphics for your main navigation links. When you’re using graphic links, place the text links at the bottom of the page and place the graphic links in a row near the top or in a column on the left side. If you have a small site, you can simply have one navigation button for each page. That makes navigation very simple and clear. For a larger site, you can have a navigation button for each major section of the site. Then the first page of each section will have links to the other pages in that section.
Use a Site Map for a Large Site
For a large site, you should add a site map page and have a button leading to that page.
A site map can be as simple as a list of links by topic, or it can be a cool list of main topics where visitors click on the list to display each set of subtopics. The site map makes it easier for someone to find a page deep within your site without blindly following a series of links to get there.
Good site navigation is critical to your site visitor’s experience. You want to make it really easy for the site visitor to move around in the site so that he can help you reach your goal.
Next month: Step Eight in Developing a Business Web Site.
–© 2004 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is a professional Web Developer and Online Marketing Consultant. She routinely places client sites on the first page of a Google search. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her Web site at http://www.cognitext.com.
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