As a newcomer to online business, one of the first things you need to worry about, long before funnelling traffic and playing strongly to your niche, is the actual website which will house your product or service. Websites are almost literally a dime a dozen in today’s marketplace, and while simplicity certainly does sell, as evidenced by the dominance of social media sites, any site you construct needs to appeal to people and operate seamlessly.
For the time being, you can put your immaculate images, fancy Flash features and purple prose up on the shelf. Before you go adding these different aspects of your website, you first need to decide how they’re going to play off of one another. You need to categorize and streamline. You need to work on the internal navigation of your website. Below, we will discuss some of the finer points of internal navigation.
Explaining Internal Navigation
There are many complicated pieces out there attempting to explain internal navigation as it pertains to a system and as it pertains to search engine optimization (SEO). Some of the jargon is so niche-specific that you have to know a good deal about SEO before you can even understand it. Ironically, however, if you already knew the gist of SEO, you wouldn’t need internal navigation explained.
In essence, your site’s internal navigation is simply how the site is constructed and laid out once a user lands on your page. Visit any website right now. Take a quick 30-second look at the structure. Back? Okay. As you can see, most websites are laid out in a user-friendly way, categorizing things properly, giving you the important information first and foremost, and offering smooth functionality that allows you to get where you want to go—where they want to take you—effortlessly. This is a site’s internal navigation.
As it pertains to you, your website should be designed with four key principles in mind: Comprehension, Substance, Accessibility, and Commonality.
Comprehension: Your navigation has to make sense to the user. The first step in proper navigation is to take stock of everything you want to do with your site. Figure out everything your site will entail; i.e.: an about page, support, favourites, a forum, products, videos, testimonials, etc. Understand how you want to structure these items by way of importance and in a way that allows the functionality of your site to appeal to users.
Substance: Your links come into play with internal navigation, taking a user from one area of the site to another. After you have taken stock of everything you want to list and after you have arranged it efficiently, you need to ensure that everything you list on your site has some substance. Meaningless pages simply take up room and obstruct the overall flow of your navigation.
Accessibility: Some of the best navigation is done with simple HTML, linking people from one part of your site to another part – just as described above. This is what makes your site accessible. To that end, you want to be careful that you’re not loading your site down with too many features like Java or Flash. While something may work well for you, it might not work well for others.
Commonality: The navigation of your site has to be seamless all across your site, and this means that it has to be similar. It’s not necessary that every single page has the exact same layout, but you want to keep common themes and you want to have one basic structure for navigation purposes.
Internal navigation is often explained with the technicality of a Supreme Court case, when, in fact, that isn’t the case at all. You can think of navigation as simply the layout of your website as it pertains to a user’s point of view. From there, the mystery pretty much unravels itself using common sense and thinking of what you’d rather deal with when you visit someone’s site.