Website visitors often go to a website looking for a very specific article or document. Unless they know exactly where that content is located within the site, it can be very difficult and frustrating to actually find it.
By leveraging the advance features of today’s dynamic, database-driven Web Content Management Systems (CMS), a properly designed website makes the process of finding that elusive article or document relatively easy and painless. A well-conceived design and information architecture will present multiple paths to get to the same information. By leveraging a combination of intuitive, audience-specific navigational menus, free text search, content tags, taxonomy structures, and page-to-page references, a user can more easily navigate your website.
The example below is specific to a municipal website, but it can be applied to many organizations.
User Goal: “Register your business”
John is a self-employed accountant running business from his home office. John wants to make sure that he is properly registered to conduct business in his city of residence, so he goes to the city’s website to find out what business application forms he needs to fill out.
The first scenario below describes the user experience typical on many City websites today. The second scenario outlines a more ideal solution.
Scenario #1: An example of poor usability
John goes to the City’s homepage but does not see a business link or any other intuitive links to suggest where to find the business application form. He looks for a search box but doesn’t find that either. Finally, he decides that it must be hidden on one of the Department pages. After a few tries and much frustration, he finds a link to the business application form on the City’s Planning Department Page. The form isn’t located on the Planning main page, but he finds it buried within a dropdown menu located on that page. So, his one and only path to the form from the City home page is as follows:
1. John clicks on the Planning Department link, where he finds a forms link, which finally brings him to the form.
Scenario #2: An example of best-in-class usability
John goes to the City’s newly designed web CMS that incorporates all the features described in the above “solution” section. As a result, all of the following paths ultimately get him to the business application form. The form, by the way, has the same traditional ‘home’ within the planning department page as it did above (in other words, there is only one actual form on the website), but the following six paths to that form are now available from the City home page:
1. John clicks on the “Forms” link from the City home page, which immediately shows him the business application form.
2. John clicks on the “Business” link which brings him to a “How to Conduct Business” section that provides a link to the business application form as well as other useful business-related information.
3. John does a Search on the word business, which provides a link to Business Licenses as one of the results
4. John clicks on the Planning Department link, where he finds a forms link, which finally brings him to the form (note: this is the one and only option John had in scenario #1)
5. John clicks on the Planning Department link, where he notices a “Planning Department Forms” section I the right sidebar with a one-click link to the form
6. John clicks on the Planning Department link, where he sees a highlighted area of the Planning home page for “How to Conduct Business” (similar to what he would find from the Business link)
See the vast difference in usability and ease of access? A solid web design coupled with the right CMS technologies will vastly improve the way visitors navigate your website!