One of the most important factors of your dental website is the structure, design and content of your navigation system. When a potential customer visits your website online, they instantly look for important information, the main areas/focus of your website – the best way to portray this information to your audience is through your navigation buttons. They should be bold and prominent so clearly visible for the user. You should also use common vocabulary where possible, for example ‘contact us’ rather than ‘speak with us’ and ‘about us’ rather than ‘what we do’ etc. The clearer and easier to understand, the better! The following article highlights some key design principles focusing on navigation design and structure.
“Lost in Space: Clear navigation will stop your site’s visitors getting lost“
by Nigel Gordijk
When visitors first arrive at a Web page they ask themselves three questions:
1. What is this site about? 2. What can I see or do here? 3. How do I go about doing it?
If they can’t answer any of these, then the site’s design has failed.
1. What is this site about?
It’s important to realise that most people visit a Web site with a specific purpose in mind – for example to learn the latest news, or to buy a particular book.
A Home page should make it immediately clear what the site’s owner would like you to do there. At Amazon they’re selling you books, amongst other things; at news.bbc.co.uk you’re being offered up-to-the-minute news on a variety of subjects. Within a couple of seconds it’s clear what these sites are about.
2. What can I see or do here?
This should be answered in part by the site’s navigation. This should be in a clearly defined area with clearly worded links or buttons that give the visitor some idea of what to expect when they are clicked on.
Hierarchical content layout should also point out the most important areas to go to. As usability consultant Steve Krug points out in his book Don’t Make Me Think, navigation acts like road signs or department store signage. It tells you where you are as well as helping point you in the right direction for where you want to get to.
3. How do I go about doing it?
Obscurely worded links only confuse visitors. Make it absolutely clear and you won’t go wrong.
On this site, instead of “About Me” I could have used “My Curriculum Vitae”, but this is meaningless in some countries (this is the World Wide Web, after all). Likewise, “My Résumé” would make sense in North America, but not many other places.
Don’t be afraid to make it obvious. Looking for “Electrical Goods”? Follow the store signs. Want to buy “Gladiator”? Click on “Videos and DVDs”.
Using another “real world” analogy, think of a site’s design as its packaging. Sitting on the supermarket shelf, the label tells you what the package contains and explains what the contents can be used for. Like decent navigation, it may even tell you how to open it to get to its contents.
Technology is conspiring against you; slow modems, old computers, dodgy ‘phone connections – these all add to the slow download of a Web page. Don’t compound your audience’s frustration by making your site’s content difficult to access.
About the author: Nigel Gordijk – based in Brighton, England – is an accomplished, independent Web consultant with over 16 years’ design industry experience. His Web site designs are noted for their ability to engage users and their ease of use. His client list includes BP International Ltd, Thomson Holidays, Honda, Ladbrokes and No 10 Downing Street.