Content Strategy, Part 4 of 4
Let’s focus on navigation today. How will users make a path through your website?
Take a closer look at very content-heavy websites. Here are a few to try:
Click around the main and secondary navigation, link lists in sidebars, links at the bottom or under articles/pages/posts, and links in the footers. What sort of mechanisms need to be in place to allow for this kind of multi-dimensional navigation?
The answer, ultimately, is that your site needs a taxonomy. Taxonomy is the science or technique of classification.
On most Web sites, information can be classified by:
– Topic – these tend to be the topics, issues and special interest of your readers, members, customers, visitors. For example, a trade association in the auto industry might have topics related to safety, marketing, supply chain, quality.
– Type – these tend to refer to the content collections on a Web site. For example, a think tank might have news, policy briefs, commentary, testimony, and podcasts.
How are topics different from types of content? Review a few content-heavy sites and identify what topics they have versus types of content.
For example, Cracked.com includes these overarching topics, among others:
– historical curiosities
– comic book oddities
– amazing scientific facts
– human relationships
The same site can be broken down into many types of content, including:
– list-based articles
– Photoplasty (Photoshop) contests
– collections of links to articles on other sites
Why does every content-heavy site need a taxonomy? And how do you use a taxonomy?
– Different people navigate according to their needs and interests.
On any given day, a journalist might want to see all of your company’s press releases, regardless of topic. On another day, the same journalist might want to know everything your organization has to offer in the area of food safety. So let same journalist navigate by both content topic and type!
– Tagging content by taxonomy allows you to relate content by topic and type.
So, a news item on elections would have a sidebar containing other news items related to elections, recent publications and events related to the elections, and other recent news items (regardless of topic).
– A taxonomy allows you to connect people with their interests.
Let your visitors sign up for news by their interest areas, let them personalize their Web experience on your site, and compare the interests of your members with the content you have online.
As in everything related to the design and implementation of websites, the needs of your user come first. You must get to know your target audience as well as you can before you can decide upon the navigation and content strategy that will best appeal to them.
Here’s an article on three user-centered navigation strategies:
Can you think of any other innovative, user-centered methods of pulling a user through a website?
Exercise 6: Analyze Your Navigation
Look at your blog as though you’ve never seen it before. Starting with the home page, how many different ways are there to navigate it? Are there menus? Is there search? Are there lists of recent articles or archives by month? When you go to an individual post, is there a list of related articles? Can the user click on the category or tags associated with the post and see other posts in that group? Are you using categories and tags, and if you are, do they make sense from the user’s perspective?
Bonus: get one or more friends to review the navigation of the site for you. Ask for their honest opinion about whether they get confused, whether your navigation keeps encouraging them to read more, whether they get the gist of what sorts of things your site is about.
Look for new opportunities to enhance your site’s navigation, and fix what doesn’t seem to be working.