Tips for Restructuring Your Navigation for Better Website Usability

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Tip: Step Back and Analyze Your Navigation Every 6-12 Months

Your navigation is one of the most important ways that visitors get around on your website – and you want to make sure it is working for both you and your visitors.

At the beginning of our projects, we spend time developing a website navigation based on site goals and the needs of our target audience. Because of that, sometimes our clients feel like the website navigation is set in stone – but it’s not! It’s a good idea to take a step back and analyze your navigation every 6 – 12 months as your priorities change and you get more data about how visitors interact with your site.

Below, Schipulite Jennie Lane outlines steps for reviewing data from Google Analytics to make decisions about restructuring your navigation, including some real world before and after examples of a recent navigation restructure we went through.

 

5 Tips for Restructuring Your Website Navigation

  1. Use Analytics to determine which content is most important to visitors
  2. Make sure the most important items are top level nav items
  3. Order items so the most important items read left to right
  4. Use a Utility Navigation for Logistics that don’t need to be in the main nav
  5. Use Descriptive Words in Titles

3 Reports in Google Analytics to Review when Revisiting Your Navigation

  1. Top Content – To see what content is most popular with users
  2. Visitor Flow – To see how Visitors are navigating through your site
  3. In Page Analytics – To see which Links get the most clicks from your homepage

Your website should be flexible to change as your marketing priorities evolve. Remember – Making even small changes to the navigation can make a big difference for your visitors!

Facebook Fan Page Management Webinar with Erica Bogdan

Facebook Fan Page Management Webinar with Erica Bogdan from Schipul – The Web Marketing Co. on Vimeo.

Businesses are relying more and more on Facebook Fan Pages as a way to connect with their target audience and reach the right client demographics. But having a large, engaged fan base is something that doesn’t just happen overnight. To make the most of your Fan Page you must think strategically and use the right tools to help drive traffic to your site.

Erica Bogdan is  Web designer and developer at Schipul and Facebook page admin for AIGA Houston. She will show you how over the past few months she’s increased her page’s number of fans and gotten them to interact on her page. This Webinar will cover the following:

  •  How to use Facebook admin tools effectively
  •  How to increase your fan numbers organically
  •  What strategies to use to ensure your content is being seen by the most amount of people.

Slides of this Webinar and previous ones can be found here also.

Houston Website Designers Seminar Explores Crucial Client Conversation Topics

Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the Houston Website Designer Series monthly seminar, hosted by the Art Institute of Houston.  Aaron Long, a VP here at Schipul, was one of the presenters alongside Bo Bothe from BrandExtract, Joe Robbins from Joe Robbins Photography, and Tom King with Forward Marketing.

The presenters each shared stories and tips from their past experiences working on website design projects with clients to an audience of Houston developers, designers, and design students.  I gained new insight about how a design project can either go smoothly and stay within budget or go horribly wrong and become very costly solely on the basis of the types of conversations the agency or designer has with their clients throughout the project.

Designing a Website is Complicated

The process of building and designing a website is often more technical and time intensive than most people realize.  There is also the added challenge that our clients want a website for marketing their products and services to generate new leads.  This adds complex elements to the project to ensure proper branding, communication of the company and what you do, has calls to action and specific content for search engine marketing, plus custom development like a shopping cart for e-commerce, event registration, site login and permissions capabilities, etc.

Designing a complex website requires excellent 2-way communications between the client and the project managers and account executives.  As in every industry, this presents a challenge sometimes.  Lawyers struggle to explain complicated legal contracts with their clients, real estate agents have to explain the title and loan processes to clients, and doctors find ways to discuss very private, medical issues with their patients.

The Keys to Successful Communication

Education

As each of the presenters shared their tips for improving communication, Education was at the core of each success story.

Tom King on Designing Content Strategy

Tom King explained the complications of explaining to clients the importance of creating a content marketing strategy before the website design project kicks-off and integrating the strategy with the overall project.  Many clients want their website to be found in search engines and by new leads, and don’t realize how much time and research is involved in identifying the right keywords and creating the content that will go on the website before it launches and after it launches in an ongoing effort to boost search engine rankings.

To educate clients and prospects, Tom shares videos and resources from Google’s Zero Moment of Truth education series and shows clients these 2 videos that share the Coca Cola Content 2020 strategy:

Tom explained that he shows prospects these videos before the sales meeting because “if they watch these and don’t get it, then we won’t work well together.”

Bo Bothe on Designing Brand Identity

Bo Bothe’s presentation walked the audience through communicating with Marathon Oil’s executives as BrandExtract managed the project to redesign Marathon Oil’s entire brand identity.  According to Bo, education about every step of the project down to teaching Marathon Oil the finer aspects of just what a logo is, was critical to the success of the project.

You can see the results of the rebranding in this video:

Aaron Long on Designing Software

Aaron Long’s presentation stresses the importance of educating clients on the differences between software and preferences in order to keep projects within budget and time lines.  Aaron communicates to clients that the purpose of software is to lower costs, and content management systems are software that are already built and will lower the cost of the website project if clients use it.  Preferences, on the other hand, raise costs and when a client wants to customize software for their project, they need to be aware that custom software development is the most expensive thing in a project.

One tip Aaron shared during his presentation is that it is up to the designers and developers to ask clients more specific questions about what they envision the end result of the website to be.  Don’t just accept it when a client says they want a shopping cart feature with their website, dig deeper and find out what products the clients will sell with the shopping cart, what special functions will this cart need to do for selling products, shipping, collecting customer data, etc.  Aaron suggests showing clients working sites with examples of what is standard so clients can better understand what they are buying when they are buying the software.

Here’s Aaron’s presentation slides to view his other tips for educating clients on the more technical side of a website design project:

Joe Robbins on Designing Web Photography

Joe Robbins brought his experience in creating professional photographs and images for advertising in print and on the web to the seminar to share the importance of having quality photographs on your website. He discussed the conversation designers should have with clients and recommended educating clients on the costs associated with photographs along with the pros and cons for hiring a professional photographer compared to stock photos and photographs already owned by the client.

Joe explained that “a well designed website is very important, but if your choice of photography is poor, all that hard work could come to nothing.  A visually arresting site can be the difference between a sale/inquiry and the customer leaving your site prematurely.”

Website Design is NOT About the Design

Although you might find this ironic, not one of the speakers for a website designer seminar spoke about graphic design for websites or talking to clients about design for the website projects.  They all stressed the importance of creating a website that marketed and sold your company online to obtain new customers.

Tom King’s remark was that content brought new visitors to your website via search engines and not the design or appearance of the site.

Bo Bothe insightfully said “You can’t just make things pretty anymore, you have to make things that work.”

“Funny makes money, not necessarily pretty” was the comment from Aaron Long regarding creating websites that drive revenue.

And Joe Robbins demonstrated how to incorporate quality photography into your website for a more visually appealing site that reflected your brand in the same way companies use glossy print advertisements offline.

The presenters recommend that we steer our focus away from the flash-based, graphic-heavy websites that make it difficult to add and edit content on and also are poorly ranked by search engines.  Instead, focus on a strategy that integrates your marketing efforts with your website design.

This seminar explained the importance of talking with and educating clients and hopefully the videos and presentations I’ve included from the seminar will give you a better understanding of the process involved with building a complex website.  I encourage you to attend the next Houston Website Designers Seminar coming up in July if you are interested in learning more.  The seminars are always free to attend.

If you want to learn more about Schipul’s website design process to build complex websites that generate leads and revenue for companies, contact us and check out our training calendar for upcoming web marketing events and webinars we’re hosting!

 

Your SXSW 2012 Interactive Top 10 Tips for Survival

SXSW Interactive is one of, if not THE biggest, interactive marketing and web conference, and is a valuable resource for our team here at Schipul.  SXSW Interactive offers education and the latest and greatest for all things related to web marketing and digital advertising.

I’m excited to be able to give back to my profession this year as a presenter on a panel: Spacepoints – Space Outreach at Ludicrous Speed! If you’re going to be in Austin in March for SXSW 2012, come check out my panel or just hang out with the team from Schipul attending.  {shameless plug!}

SXSW has a Guide for First Timers that can give you some tips on navigating the conference.  Their guide can get you to the sessions, but when I attend SXSW, I am also looking to connect with other Interactive Agencies to build relationships and identify the latest technology innovations and software tools to help our clients improve their online marketing results.  This results in a 24/7 week-long agenda of AM networking breakfast, blogger’s lounge, panels, afternoon networking, party, party, party, 4 hours of sleep, repeat.  Over the past few years, I’ve developed my own tips for surviving the extended-version of SXSW Interactive.

Here are my Top 10 Tips for Doing SXSW Interactive Hardcore:

1) Say Yes to the Free Caffeine; Say No to the Free Booze.

You’ll find that every party will have plenty of free sugar free red bull, monster energy drinks, vodka or some other kind of alcohol to mix.  Then my Caffeine Hero: Starbucks always comes to the rescue the next morning with plenty of free coffee.  Skip the booze if you want to make it through the entire week, and stock your hotel with fresh fruit and healthy snacks because you’ll be hard pressed to find any food, let alone free food at SXSW.

2) Keep Your Smartphone Charger on You at All Times.

You will be on the go running from panel to panel during the day, and then party to party each night. Carry your phone charger with you, take a spare that you keep in your hotel room (in case you lose your first one), and if you have the option – get a spare battery too. If you see an outlet near you – don’t be ashamed to plugin and juice up your phone. Tweeting, foursquaring, and texting is power-intensive and you don’t want to have a dead battery at 2am when you are trying to find directions back to your hotel.

3) Bookmark http://austin2012.sched.org/ and use it to create your personalized SXSW schedule before you get to Austin.

SXSW’s event schedule on their website is pretty good – however I’ve been using sched.org’s unofficial SXSW guide to find EVERY party, panel, and must attend event possible.  The best places to connect with people at SXSW aren’t always “official” parties.

Sched also offers a new feature this year that enables you to sync your Eventbrite RSVPs and the platform is available for all the major mobile platforms: iphone, Droid and Blackberry. When you get to Austin, you’ll love how easy sched makes it to find your next session on the go.

4) Pack a Swimsuit.

Austin weather is fickle, and it may be 60 degrees in early March or 90. Regardless – all the hotels have swimming pools and hot tubs and if you are doing it right, you’ll be invited to at least one pool party.  I don’t recommend skinny dipping at SXSW – everyone has a camera in their smartphone and you what happens at SXSW definitely does NOT stay at SXSW.  So take your favorite swim trunks or bikini when you pack for Austin.

5) Pack a Cowboy Hat and Cowboy Boots.

There will be at least 2 parties with a Texas country theme. If you don’t have western attire – no worries, Austin has some great shops where you can purchase what you need.  I’ve gotten great Cowgirl boots at Allen’s Boots and the HatBox has Cowboy hats in every style plus tons of other fun and funky headwear.

6) Pack a Backpack and Leave Your Briefcase at Home.

Have I already mentioned you’ll be on the move for a week? Take a compact backpack with a laptop-padded section for your trip and spare your back and shoulders the strain of running around all day carrying your briefcase. You don’t have to take your laptop or tablet PC – but you’ll definitely want to have something with you for taking notes in the sessions, even if you prefer traditional pen and paper.  If you are going to any of the developer or design sessions then your laptop will be heavily used. Bloggers will find the Bloggers lounge a great resource for power and snacks while updating your audience with all the latest happenings online too.

7) Talk to Strangers.

The panels are great for professional development but it’s the people at the conference that are the core of the experience so don’t be shy – say Hi to everyone you meet. SXSW Interactive hosts the largest single gathering of “Connectors” you’ll ever find so strike up a conversation and get connected with new people who will help you grow your business, launch your start-up, or make an introduction to that big prospect or thought leader.

8) Take More Business Cards Than You Think You’ll Need – and Stickers Too!

I probably go through 200-300 mini-moos each SXSW. I order cards JUST for SXSW that have my contact information while at the conference. I include a headshot so people recognize me throughout the week, my mobile so people can text me about any “pop-up” parties, my email address for following up later, and this year my panel information so people will know when and where I’ll be presenting. I recommend moo.com’s mini-moos if you are going to order cards just for the event. Here’s my cards for this year:

9)  Make Time to Visit the Exhibitions, Showcases, and Lounges.

One of the best places to find out about innovations in online technology is SXSW’s Interactive.  The only place I personally can imagine being cooler for a tech-geek like me is the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.  SXSW has several different Trade Shows and Showcase Lounges featuring an array of products and services that your business may want to utilize for growing online and offline next year.  You definitely want to make your rounds to the SXSW Start-up Village Showcase featuring new technology start-ups, plus you can snag some really fun Swag!

10) Don’t Try to Do Everything.

You can’t.  I tried one year and came back with no voice left and a dazed and confused fog that took 2 more weeks to dissipate.  Until cloning techniques advance, I’ll have to settle with missing about 2/3rds of everything because so much is going on all at once.

Schedule at least 4 to 6 hours of sleep each night.  Make time in your schedule to get away from the convention center to walk around the lake one morning or take a couple of hours one afternoon and take a nap in your hotel.  SXSW, when done right, is both grueling and an amazing experience.  Definitely dive right into the throng of digital tech madness, but be sure to turn off your phone every so often…

And remember: Don’t Drink the Free Booze!