This is Part II of a weekly series. Be sure to read Part I.
When we surf the web, we want information, and we want it yesterday. Let’s be honest – when it comes to browsing websites, patience is not our strong point.
But don’t blame yourself – such behavior is a natural reaction to the sheer volume of information we are presented with in the modern age. If we spent time carefully considering every single piece of information we came across on a daily basis, we would never get anything done. As we said in our recent post on copywriting tips, we are a generation of “scanners”.
And when it comes to website design, you must always subscribe to the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mantra. Anyone who tries to buck the trend and prioritize aesthetics over usability will always fall flat on their face. And make no mistake – navigation is one of the most important factors in producing a successful website. If you have great content but it is hard to find, no one is going to read it.
However, there is no need to feel intimidated by this fact. Creating a highly accessible site is not rocket science. In fact, when it comes to building a successful blog, it is one of the easiest things to get right – as long as you following the right set of rules. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 5 fundamentals of WordPress site navigation.
1. The Front and Center Principle
We will start with something very simple – links to your primary navigation elements should always be in the most prominent place (i.e. front and center). That place is typically the navigation bar that spans the width of your blog.
On a side note, if your blog’s design is such that your key navigation element isn’t front and center, you may want to seriously reconsider your priorities.
But that’s not all – you should take advantage of the front and center principle fully by making each page linked to a navigation element in itself. It only takes a few moments of studying your analytics to spot that some of the most visited pages are those in your navigation bar. Take advantage of that by including relevant links within the pages.
For instance, your contact page can promote your social media outlets, and your About page can link to related posts that tell the reader more about you. Once a reader is onsite, keep him or her clicking.
2. Let Your Users Search
We don’t need to spend too much time on this topic today, as we covered search in great detail last week.
Search is good for you, your blog, and your visitors. People are used to searching, so when they hit your site, there is a good chance that they will want to search for whatever they hope to find. If you provide them with the option, not only can you point them towards the most relevant response to their query that your site can offer, you can also gather incredibly valuable information on what your visitor is looking for.
Even if visitors are making unsuccessful searches and bouncing off your pages, you still benefit – by having a better understanding of what people are searching for. When numerous identical search queries go unfulfilled, you know it is time to plug a gap in your content.
3. Consolidate Choice
You have no doubt come across countless blogs with an enormous list of categories. But here’s the thing – too much choice is a bad thing.
But don’t take our word for it – instead turn to the famous “jam study” carried out by Dr. Sheena Iyengar and detailed in her popular book, The Art of Choosing.
Two tables were set up in a supermarket – each one offering free samples of jam. The only difference between the two tables were the number of flavors on offer – 6 on one, 24 on the other.
Guess what – a great deal more jam was sold by the table with fewer flavors on show.
Whilst people like choice, they like it within reasonable bounds. If you overwhelm someone with choice, they are likely to make no choice at all. And this will happen with your website’s visitors if you are not careful. So it is vital that you keep the number of categories you have on your site to a bare minimum. According to Iyengar, seven is the magic number.
4. Offer Resources
But really, you shouldn’t have categories at all.
Not in the traditional sense anyway. The garden variety WordPress category page is almost entirely useless to a visitor. Whilst a reverse-chronological order of your blog posts typically makes sense for your homepage, that same logic does not apply to your category pages. The likelihood of a reverse-chronological order being the best way to sort your archived posts is very slim.
So you should replace your category pages with a small number of resource pages. Each page should represent a key focus of your blog, and offer an overview of what the visitor can expect from the information you have available, followed by a list of your posts ordered by quality and relevance.
It only takes common sense to understand why this method is effective in decreasing bounce rate and increasing page views – it only takes one click to put the most relevant and best content in front of your visitor (which takes us back to the front and center principle).
There are few methods of increasing engagement that are more effective than simple interlinking. If you attract a visitor who is interested in your content, they will find it hard to resist reading additional posts that focus on the same topic. But you need to place links to those posts right in front of them (yep – the front and center principle raises its head again).
Consider this – a lot of people who visit your site will barely notice anything but your content. Blog loyalty is rarely earned in the first visit, so when most visitors hit your site, they will essentially ignore everything apart from your content. However, if you weave links within your content, they will find it hard not to click.
Read The Series
- The 5 Key Fundamentals of WordPress Site Design
- The 5 Key Fundamentals of WordPress Site Navigation