I don’t remember who said it – it was a general expression about how people find them through long tail searches and then ‘hop-scotch’ around their site.
And it got me thinking:
Traditional blog navigation sucks. Big time.
In July, the people that found me via search engine looked at 1.74 pages per visit. Of course, half of those people were only trying to find a chicken sandwich joint and found me instead. I’m sitting here on 272 posts and 21 pages on my blog over the last 14 months or so, and only a handful are looked at with any frequency. And granted, only maybe 20% of anything there is worth reading, and that’s a conservative estimate.
If someone is looking at a post I wrote 18 months ago, how do I facilitate their exploration of the site from there? How do I get them to recognize that the stuff they want to see might be there and that they can get to it easily?
Think about the typical category link. You click on it, it shows you a bunch of posts in that category, a huge rambling list. It’s ugly, it’s unfriendly, it’s not easy to use and see what’s there. When did spewing mounds of tangentially related content onto a long page become an acceptable content organization paradigm?
Typically, you’ve got your little links across the top, some down the side, maybe even two rows of them – something I personally find incredibly difficult to read, and very distracting. Lots of text links, sprawling down the length of the page. I’d love to see some other heat maps of how many people actually click or look at those things. I know from those of my own site – not many. But I’m just a guppy in these waters.
What the big boys do.
I went over to Amazon to have a look around. Who has more stuff to organize and show than Amazon, right?
So. Amazon homepage. Navigation: both sides, across the top. They’re trying to sell me a Kindle and some Tevas in the middle, in some prime page real estate (Amazon doesn’t quite have me figured out, I only read electronic books while barefoot). But hold on: I bet I can get to anywhere on Amazon using only that top nav bar and the small high-level side nav bar. Because as soon as I click on, say, Apparel & Accessories, I get to pick: Apparel, Shoes, Jewelry, or Watches.
Obviously, we pick shoes. And voila, our navigation choices change. I have now identified myself as a shoe buyer, and the site has changed accordingly. The center is a special offer, prominent, followed by some basic category navigation with pictures. The right nav – all offers specific to shoe purchasers, pictures of shoes, special savings on shoes, it’s a whole shoe orgy over there. Left nav – more categories: womens, mens, childrens, athletic, eco-friendly. Also: shop by brand, shop by size.
This has some basic translation to real estate websites. I want to talk to a first time buyer differently than I talk to a move-up buyer or to a seller. So why do I show them the same navigation, the same links to the same stuff, making the same offers to everyone? This makes no sense to me.
If the whole point is to get the right information to the right person at the right time, then shouldn’t my navigation, my whole site adapt to that person as they make navigation decisions?
And as a corollary: if I allow people to navigate easily to the stuff they want to see, then wouldn’t it be more appropriate to not shove a huge thousand word post in their face unless they specifically request to read it?
(Also, I’m accepting gifts of anything made by Privo, size 8. Hurry, there’s some special offers…)