Creating a navigation system:
Checking everything works
By Mike Slocombe for Internet Magazine, May 2004
The design of the navigation system is one of the most important aspects of creating a site and failing to properly research and plan the thing could be disastrous.
The more time you take in the planning stage the more likely you are to produce an attractive, logical and consistent navigation that'll keep visitors happily clicking away.
Testing forms an important part of creating a successful navigation, but it's a bit difficult to test your own work because you already know where everything is on your site!
Commercial companies often hire in touchy-feely focus groups to report back on how users find their sites, but you can save yourself a fortune by asking your audience directly and collecting their opinions via a guest book/feedback form.
If you're a bit more serious about getting your navigation right, invite in a few chums and set them a few tasks on your website (like 'find last year's news archive' etc).
Resist the temptation to sit on their shoulders and shout "it's that link in the top corner, stupid!" and note down their comments - even if you disagree with them (when it comes to navigation and testing a site, the customer is, I'm afraid, almost always right!)
Remember that the majority of visitors will find your site through a search engine and won't necessarily arrive via the front page - or even in the right section.
Make sure that wherever someone enters your site, they can instantly work out where they are in relation to the whole site and it's easy for them to find their way around to the content that interests them.
If you've got your navigation looking hunky-dory and your visitors are giving it the thumbs up there's one last thing to do - and that's to run a link checker over your entire site to make sure there's no dodgy links.
Thankfully, most web authoring packages can do this for you, otherwise you can download this free link checker: Xenu Link Sleuth
Hopefully, your all-new lean, mean and Spock-logical navigation system will result in happier surfers and an increase in site traffic.
But it's not all plain sailing: a good navigation system is something that should constantly be refined, tweaked and improved as the site expands, so a site navigator's work is never really done!
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