Web Design Navigation Strategy in 3 Steps: #3 “Fine-Tuning”
Now that you gathered data about the buying process of your prospective customers, organized and analyzed your findings against your sales process and business goals, the development of your website’s navigations has two last steps before it is complete. 1. Marrying the buying and selling process together as one structure and 2. Testing the merit of your navigational assembly.
Marrying The Buying and Selling Process Together As One
The process is simple, but it takes concentration, empathy and perspective to get it right. This step could be thought of metaphorically as a Venn diagram of two overlapping circles. The common area between the two circles represents the shared navigations from both a buyer and seller’s point of view. While this is an oversimplified explanation, the approach does illustrate the general direction you would take. In the end, the combined navigational structure should satisfy both buyers and sellers without sacrifice or concession. The more clear you are on each party’s goals and the spirit of intent behind each, the more successful you will be at the merging of both interests.
Fine-Tune Your Navigations with Index Cards
Your navigational structure should not be considered done until it’s validated with feedback from customers and colleagues using a testing technique called “card sorting.”
Card sorting is a quick and easy way to find out how people think your content should be organized and labeled. It’s a useful approach for designing information architecture, workflows, menu structure or website navigation paths. Card sorting could be done online using software, such as http://www.usabilitest.com or http://www.simplecardsort.com, or in person using a cheap deck of index cards. With either approach, you could analyze your navigational structure using a top down or bottom up method. For simplicity sake, here is a summary overview of how it could be administered manually.
1. TOP DOWN: Test Sub-navigation Labels
Take all the sub-navigation index cards and put them in a pile leaving the global navigation index cards in one row across the top. Then ask your test subjects:
a. What would you expect to find under each top navigation? Let your test subjects take sub-navigation index cards from the pile and have them placed under each of the global navigation index cards. Offer blank cards for them to create sub-navigations that were missed, or ask them to cross off the existing label on a sub-navigation card if they could think of a better name.
b. Does it seem that the sub-navigations in each column belong together? In other words, do they appear to fit logically with one another? If not, which one(s) don’t belong with the others, why not, and what column(s) should they go under? If they don’t belong in any column, put it to the side until all others are analyzed.
c. Finally, ask to have the sub-navigation index cards under each column put in order of importance from top to bottom, with the top being most important.
2. BOTTOM UP: Test Global Navigation Labels
Start by creating columns of index cards labeled by sub-navigation name. Then ask:
a. Based on the sub-navigations in each column, how would you summarize the column in one or two words? Ask this same question for each column. Take a blank index card and label it with the description and place it on top of the column as a global navigation.
b. With decisions based on the global navigation name for each column how would each column be sequenced from left to right, if the left was most important?
Now that you are well informed based on input from several sources, fine-tune and finalize your navigational structure. It is suggested to test the navigational structure one last time during the internal launch stage to see if people have any issues completing tasks. Up until this point you are eliminating red flags, without focusing on the “final” structure.
Focus on Prospective Customer Needs
The quality of your website’s navigations directly impacts its success as a sales conversion tool for your business. Considering the importance of providing what potential customers are looking for in a way that aligns with their buying process, it is worth the time to administer this test. By going through this process , you not only ensure your pages are easy to find and maneuver around, but the steps taken will help develop a user-centric mindset that will help guide your website’s BIG IDEA; the creative direction, page layouts and calls-to-action from a user’s perspective. As an additional benefit, what you learn in the process could be applied to your sales and marketing efforts.
Armed with a deeper understanding of your prospective customer’s needs and goals throughout the buying process, your knowledge is applicable well beyond web design. Take your research and analysis and lay it over your existing business and sales processes. Do they seem correlated or disjointed? If you find your internal processes are working as road blocks to your prospects buying process, now may be the time to overhaul outdated or ineffective business practices.
Keep in mind, this process takes time. It’s important to put in the steps and follow the process from the first nodes of data collection to the final test of recommended web navigation. As a holistic process, findability, mapping and fine-tuning will marry your customer’s needs with your sales process and business goals, resulting in a website that has a rarely-implemented and distinct business advantage.