If you’re reading this, you’ve navigated a website before. If you’re normal, you’ve likely navigated hundreds, thousands, or ten of thousands of websites before.
Much like you’ve potentially navigated a car through the back roads of some CBD or suburb, you had a positive or negative experience; I hope yours on this website has been positive. If not, navigate yourself to my contact page, find the mail address there, and work out how to contact me (past the simple, anti-spam method) and let me know what to change. I doubt you will do that, as there is absolutely no incentive to do so, but the point is this: websites need to be navigable.
Google, and others too I am sure, want websites to be easy to navigate. Is it a ranking factor? Well, yes, but maybe not directly. Google should be able to pick up how easy it is to find their way around your site (by ‘their’ I mean “their bots”) and understand to an extent what it must be like for users who come to your website. I personally am a fan of websites that make it abundantly clear how to do that, and I love the use of well chosen words, the right colours, the right size of buttons, lists being alphabetised, numbers being clickable, maps being scrollable, and a host of other things that I will get to in part on this blog post – and the rest down the line when I have time to retreat to a nice wine farm and write my tech/SEO/webmaster-ish thoughts.
Sidenote: writing from Buitenverwachting in Cape Town is superb! No wifi, great service, quiet, beautiful, and they have a terrible website (at time of writing) so very inspiring for thoughts on Ux and website navigation.
So, without further adieu, I want to talk about breadcrumbs, colours, microdata, logic, and making the world and the web a better place through the sixth love language: thoughtfulness.
On any new project I push for breadcrumbs. Maybe it’s a bit of work but the idea of having a trail of where you have been, and how you got to the webpage you are on is super helpful. I am sure it looks different in varying applications but in simplicity, the idea is something like a small menu bar at the top showing you the page you are on in a computer folder type way.
For example: mike.com/trips/asia/my-time-in-Japan
Looking at that, a human with an IQ above 80 should instantly be able to see from the url that there is a website, and a subfolders of trips(implying there is more than one category, ie. the website does more than just talk about trips), and a subfolder of asia (implying the writer/website has been to more places than just asia), and this trip in particular is to Japan.
The breadcrumbs for that would look a lot like:
Trips > Asia > Trip to Japan
So, if you wanted to you can just click on “Asia” to see all Asia trips, or “Trips” to see all Trips with all subcategories.
Pretty simple stuff.
So, what is the point? Well, people don’t always start on a part of your website where all this is obvious. So, if they’ve landed on that page (the Japan one – btw, don’t you want to travel there now, what with all the talking about Japan. Japan, Japan, Japan!) they immediately get context. Context is king. SEO folk say ‘content is king’ but whatever, I make up a new phrase Contextual content is King of kings. Sounds a little blasphemous, but hey, what are you going to do…
Key takeaway: have breadcrumbs or something that gives context. Think of SEO, and websites like a book – do you want a book to have a cover and a contents page? Do you want the pages to be numbered? Do you want the chapter heading to be at the top of every page? If you answered “yes!” to all those questions then you like want websites that have such context so you can find your way around.
So a webpage has copy on it: that is, words written to convey meaning. But, what about all those little words that aren’t part of the main body of text (much like the words you’re reading in this wonderful article) – what about those? The choice of the words used in the menu, the words in the footer, the title of the list of “read more” articles at the bottom – these types of words are what we mean by microdata, and getting it right (especially on apps, and on forms to fill in) are key to helping people have a better experience on your website.
You want to be smart with your colours, and not just from a design perspective so that your website looks great (and doesn’t seem glaring and off-putting), but also from a UX view. That is: do you want it to be clear that those four buttons take you to another part of the website you are on, but that one, big, tempting, voluptuous button takes you to a donate page, or the page on amazon where you can buy the solution to your troubles? Then choose a separate colour for it. Even if it’s just a hyperlink to external sites, or a big, important CTA, or your contact page. Colour can convey a lot. Choosing the right colours is amazing, but even just choosing to use colour to convey that there is a choice, a separation, a something can help your users. Blue means buy, red means danger, yellow means happiness, orange means learn more, purple means … you get the picture – develop a strategy, and then implement it. By that I mean: put yourself in the shoes of your client/visitors and think “what isn’t obvious to them, and how could we convey to them visually the various things we’re trying to communicate”.
Eish, the world could do with a lot more logic. I am a big fan of the triumvirate of education. Logic, arithmetic, rhetoric? and I forget the last one. Corona, and covid regulations has made this apparent. We were banned from buying clothes unless they were white, shoes that were closed. You must wear a mask, unless sitting. You can’t go to the beach but you can sit in a cramped bus. Anyway, libraries full of books are going to be written about it all and I couldn’t be bothered but for the purpose of this article: make your website super logical, peole will love you for it. And, if illogical people come to your website, hope that your logical website will make a convert of them to the better way, and if they hate it, then, well, who wants to deal with illogical people anyway? I wouldn’t want to sell a product to someone who wants it to be delivered yesterday – steer clear.
I tell my wife (annually, just before my birthday) that my main love language is thoughtfulness and all the above main points are really to do with that: think about how to help others before they ask for it, and do it. It’s why I often consider giving up SEO and going straight into UX/UI – because I love thinking how can I help these people with the best online process/portal/platform/palaver possible. So, what can you do? Either you know tonnes about the web and just out of instinct can make your website incredibly thoughtful, or, take 5-10 hours trawling through the web and with pen and paper in hand, write down every single little thing you like and dislike that you encountered. Even do it with a glass of wine at hand, that way you will be more brutal in your feedback, and brutal honesty is helpful. I find every time I interact with a website like SARS efiling and can’t even view a frikkin pdf (from an organisation that is responsible for collecting 1.5 trillion ZAR a year!) that it motivates me to get better at helping online systems, and potentailly one day having the opportunity to work with folks like that and fundametally change their digital operation.