Planning Your Site Structure
Given that the purpose of most websites is to provide information, you should provide as much information as possible as long as it is organized in a clear, readable and quickly scannable format for site visitors.
The organization of your site will determine the visible buttons or top-level links that form your navigation array. Most smaller, local businesses should probably limit the number of main links to around 7.
This is only a general rule, of course, but too many choices can overwhelm site visitors and/or make it difficult for them to focus on what you want them to see.
Also keep in mind that you can have pages on your site that aren’t necessarily linked to a button on the navigation array.
When applicable, visitors can reach these pages through links in the site copy and/or by links you provide in an email. For example, you might provide a link with forms or information targeted just for customers.
Home Page: Purpose and Organization
Every site has a home page. It may not always be where people start since some arrive via links to your site from ads or emails. But most businesses can expect the majority of their site visitors to begin here, so it’s an important “front door” to your website.
People typically scan a home page—more so than other pages on your site. The reason is that—in the space of a couple seconds—they are trying to answer several questions for themselves: “Who are you, what do you do, and how can I benefit from spending time on your website?
With this in mind, I believe there are several things your home page must accomplish:
- Engage Visitors. This means stopping them long enough so they don’t “bounce” from the home page (leave the site and close the browser window). Briefly address who you are, what do you do and for whom. You should also summarize the main value you offer, particularly relative to competing products or services. Some people call this your “value proposition.”
- Direct Visitors. Assuming you have successfully engaged them, now they need to know how to learn more. So, direct them into the site to pages that have greater detail about the solution(s) you offer.
- Make an Offer. People aren’t always ready to act when they haven’t educated themselves yet, so jamming an “act now” offer in their face on the home page might be premature. But, depending on what you’re offering and to whom, it may be a great step. For example, you might offer them information that helps further educate them, like a free guide or report. In this case, your goal should be to have them contact you, provide their email and/or sign up for your blog so you can continue to market to them.
How long should home page content be? Remember, people typically scan the home page, so it’s got to be easy to read at a glance. That said, you need enough content to get the job done—particularly if you are hoping the page will register important keywords with search engines.
But longer content can be packaged so it’s easy to scan. We can break up content with subheads, images, bullet points, copy boxes and the like. Personally, I believe you’re better off erring with more—rather than less—home page content.
Other Website Pages
There are several pages that most websites have (e.g. About and Contact), and people often look for these to answer specific questions. But other than that, pages vary by the type of business and how the site owner wants to organize his/her content. See box at right for sample pages and content suggestions.
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