“Top 10” lists are a perennial favorite. They are quick to read, easy to understand, and out of ten items, the average person is going to remember seven (plus or minus two). Information architecture, which is the discipline of designing how users and systems interact with information, is core to a successful website - and this is the list of the top 10 IA tips that can help your website be one of them.
“If every company took 10 minutes to examine their website – cross check it against the top 10 information architecture tips, I could almost certainly guarantee that companies will find errors. In today’s world, where your website is your company, errors could possibly lead your prospect onto your competitors site,” said Alan Bach, vice president & general manager, MarketNet.. “Today, people have very little patience when surfing the net and move quickly when the site is confusing, links don’t work and is not accessible.”
Right after you read this list, check out your website. If your site doesn’t get a checkmark beside every item, or the seven (plus or minus two) you remember, have a talk with your webmaster. Or look into hiring a company who has this stuff in mind from the beginning of a project, so there is less rework (time and money) at the end.
1. Design with the end user in mind
From the content presented to the imagery and navigation labels used, think about the people you want to come and stay on your site. Keep the internal lingo and business structure behind the scenes and not on the public home page.
2. Make it accessible
The planning and implementation of practices that will help disabled visitors on your site will also make it more search engine friendly, and that’s just the biggest win-win situation online today.
3. Everything counts
From the non-stock imagery to the tone of the copywriter-written words, every piece of information makes an impression on the site visitor. After all, you specifically chose to put it out there for everyone in the online world to see, therefore it must have a purpose, right?
4. Provide a robust search
Make it a good one because every visitor to your site is going to compare it to Google. Don’t disappoint them.
5. Write scannable, easy to read copy
No matter how many images you have on your site, at some point, you will use words. Make the font big enough to read and remember online copy should be 50% less than the paper equivalent.
6. Give working, accurate contact information
If it’s a phone number, make sure it’s answered. If it’s an online form, make sure it works, and the user gets a confirmation email that their info was received.
7. No broken links
Software can check for this to a certain extent, or there’s the good old fashion way of getting someone to click through at least the important links to make sure they go where they should.
8. Identify links and visited links
Websites live and die by their links, whether in HTML text, on a graphic, or in a fancy Flash animation. Let the user know where they can go and if they’ve already been there.
Different site visitors have different goals to accomplish when visiting your site. You can’t plan for all of them, but you can provide links to related pages. Make them count – not every page needs to link to every other page, and the user will quickly ignore them if they are the same on page after page after page.
10. Beware the bandwagon
There are more widgets and ways to share information online than ever before, especially in the realm of social networking. Whatever you chose to implement, make sure it’s not a token effort.
Ultimately your website represents you, your company and your values. Therefore it is in your best interests that it is the best it can be, and good information architecture can help make that happen.
For more information on information architecture, contact MarketNet at 972-941-3200 or www.MarketNet.com.
Marketnet, Inc. is a full-service interactive design and development company. Based in Dallas, Marketnet provides marketing, strategy, creative services, web development, application development, search marketing and analytics and reporting to its broad client base. For more information, go to http://www.marketnet.com/.
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