Considering the volume of information on the web and an audience that is growing increasingly impatient, your website had better communicate its message quickly and clearly.
We believe that an effective website is built around an engaging concept that efficiently delivers its key messages. It should be organized into a logical and simple site structure, use the efficiency of strong imagery, and be chronicled with copy that is short and precise. Used collaboratively, these attributes will allow your website to speak to a user in a matter of seconds.
Studies show that the attention span of people is steadily being shortened by the way we access information on the web. People expect things faster, and if they don’t immediately find the information they’re looking for, they go elsewhere. Whether you like it or not, it’s something you need to consider if you are commissioning a new website.
The sheer volume of information available to a web surfer is astronomical, and growing exponentially. Google has become the de facto method in which we locate new and unfamiliar information. Traditional human processes of retaining information (as you might have been taught in school) are being replaced. In the past (that’s you, 25+!), you may have retained the history of Guatemala from a lesson or encyclopedia – now you’re more likely to know how to search for “Guatemala” on Google or Wikipedia.
This reality must be reflected in the way information is presented on your website.
Therefore, we base our design philosophy around the concept of “cut to the chase” – deliver the information as clearly and quickly as possible. Assume that you only have a few seconds to make a first impression. This may vary according to the demographic of your audience, but let’s aim high. If we can convince the user in a few seconds that your website is relevant, credible, and useful, they will be more likely to stick around, or at least return to your site in the future.
Navigation and Architecture
The top level navigation of your site should be simple and logical, with self-explanatory wording.
First, establish smart site architecture. We are now very familiar with the drill down method of setting up “folders” that hold “files” or more “folders” with more “files”. It is important that the top level folders of your site be intuitive and flexible to accommodate new pages and additional sections in the future.
Next, the naming of these “folders” is essential. Use simple and short words that don’t take up too much space in the design. Label sections and pages semantically, so your users don’t get lost or frustrated. In the hotel world, we use “accommodations” – not “it’s bed time!” The use of established conventions will facilitate navigation – for instance, today everyone knows that a logo should link back to the homepage, but there was a time when this was not accepted, standard practice.
Take apple.com as an example. This is one of the largest websites on the internet, and it has only 7 primary links off its homepage. Apple placed many key pages within those 7 “folders”, and wasn’t afraid that users wouldn’t be able to find these important pages. As a result, their navigation reflects the design philosophy of their products: simple, easy-to-use, and powerful.