In our process of stripping down, rethinking, and rebuilding client websites, we spend a lot of time thinking about information infrastructure. Despite its intimidating name, the concept of information architecture (IA) is actually a lot simpler than it sounds. IA is all about making information on your website easy to find in order to improve user experience and help the customer along on his/her journey to buying your product or service. If this sounds partially familiar, you might remember we touched on some of these ideas in our post on doing a content audit.
Without going all Apple-presentation awe-inspiring on you, here are 8 basic information architecture best practices you might want to think about incorporating into your company’s website:
- It’s not about you. It’s about the customer. Often, when you’re structuring your business website, you’ll go with what feels intuitive to you. However, you’re much better off trying to imagine the customer’s point-of-view when they visit your site. Does the structure work for them?
- Define the Points of Entry. Most of your website’s visitors probably won’t enter through the homepage. These other points of entry (use analytics to identify them if you need to) should be just as engaging as your homepage to make sure that once customers arrive, they stick around.
- Provide options. But not too many. Customers appreciate different options to suit their different needs, but only up to a point. It’s been proven that too many choices can actually be a deterrent to taking action. Finding the balance between too many and just enough is the trick.
- Emphasize consistency. Consistency in every aspect of your website is key for keeping the customer experience comfortable. A consistent design for your whole site, consistent content (no conflicting information, ever!), even consistency in how to move from page to page, are all absolutely crucial.
- Prevent information overload. Running your business makes you an expert in your field, which means you probably know more than any of your potential customers about all aspects of your industry. This doesn’t mean that you should attempt to convey all this information. Think about what information is necessary for the customer to make an educated purchasing decision, and leave the rest out to prevent information overload.
- Three clicks away. Experts used to recommend that any page on your site be reachable from any other page within three clicks. We don’t subscribe to this rigid advice, but we do believe it comes from a real need – customers get frustrated when they can’t find the information they’re looking for. So, focus on setting up a logical webpage structure that supports findability and ease of navigation.
- Make a sitemap. You might think that sitemaps are straight out of the 90’s. The truth is, even if you don’t plan to post it to your website and you only end up using it as a guideline, a sitemap helps tremendously to visualize all the pages of your website and how they’re linked together.
- Keep tweaking. No matter how well you think you’ve set up your website, monitoring your web analytics to view actual customer behavior will alert you to any potential issues. If you notice a particular page has an unusually high bounce rate or isn’t behaving as expected, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
How does your site measure up to these 8 principles? Go through them one by one while you work on your site and we guarantee you’ll see a positive difference in online customer behavior.