Why You Should Treat Your Site’s Navigation Like You Would Your Showroom

Businessman in the middle of the maze. Concepts of finding a solution, problem solving, challenge etc. 3D illustration

Let’s start off with a quick anecdote, shall we? Let’s suppose that you go into your local luxury car dealership to find a brand new sedan. The first thing you notice as you step into the showroom are 30 sedans from the last three decades, all in seemingly new condition. Intrigued by this, you make your way through the maze of vehicles searching for a  salesperson.

Eventually you find a huge, wall mounted-TV screen which you assume will have information that will aid you. At first glance, the TV seems to be displaying the weather, but after staring at the screen for 10 minutes you realize that’s the extent of the information on the TV. Excellent, you are now caught up on the weather–but you still have no information on sedans (or an answer as to why there are multiple vehicles spanning multiple decades). At this moment, you (the customer) are faced with more questions than when you originally came into the dealership.

After filtering through the crowd of vehicles, you eventually spot a wall with directions to the customer service desk. You let out a sigh of relief and decide to follow the arrows down the hall directing you to customer service. It’s safe to assume that most people would have left by now, but you’re a curious individual.

After a vague, confusing, and misguided journey, you eventually make it to the customer service desk. At an average dealership, this experience would have taken 10 seconds (but your journey has felt like an hour). At last, you find the customer service desk, and as you are still excited to purchase a car you ask the desk if a salesperson can help you. The customer service representative lets you know that the sales team does not work today, and the showroom is solely open for solo-vehicle exploration. With the personality of a glass of lukewarm milk, she reminds you that the sales hours are posted on the entrance. Hey, at least you know the 3 day weather forecast.

secretarial glass of milk wearing glasses

Now, the above experience may seem like a bizarre and extreme example of a physical dealership. But, this analogy holds true for many dealer’s websites. The selling point of your website should be its ease of use. A customer should be able to navigate to their necessary page in as few clicks as possible (without being overloaded with a million options). Does your site pass the test? If not, lets run through some simple maintenance that will make your site more user friendly.

  • Similar to my anecdote, we want to ensure our users don’t have to navigate through crowded and unrelated pages. As a user I want information that is relevant and accessible to me in the least amount of clicks.
  • Its safe to say that most clients are not looking for information about sedans from the 80’s. Try and keep information up to date (if creating content isn’t something you feel comfortable doing –what do ya know– Strathcom can help you out with that). If you need to have pages on the navigation, like model landing pages, we suggest creating a central page that contains links to all your model pages. This helps free up the navigation, and removes some of that user information overload.
  • Try to keep the number of items in your navigation to a minimum, remembering that less is more. Having 5 main navigation tabs across the top and 4-5 sub items below tends to be a sweet spot (at least in my personal preference). Also, ordering can play a big part in where a user will instinctively look, and what they will remember. According to the serial position effect, we are more likely to remember items that are first and last in a list. Items in the middle tend be forgotten or ignored.
  • Finally, keep navigation labels basic and easy to understand. Try to avoid any ambiguous labels that can deter a user from continuing through your navigation. Pages under said labels should have content pertaining to this label, i.e. I would expect to have all the dealership’s contact information under the “Contact Us” tab.

These are a few reminders of how simple changes can clean up your site and help your users find the information they initial came for. If you need more ideas, or want to organize a game plan for your navigation, feel free to reach out to your Online Marketing Manager.

Bonus advice, from a designer: If you do plan to have multiple dropdowns with a large amount of pages, keep in mind that some websites designs are not meant to hold excessive menu items. Websites can adapt to the many different computers and devices out there, but when you overdo sub menu-items your website will suffer from both a design and user experience point of view.

Rear view of businessman standing in maze being captured

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