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This 33 message thread spans 2 pages: 33 ( [1] 2 > >     
Keeping visitors on your website
Stop them clicking the back button.

 3:54 am on Jul 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Keeping users on your site.

A user carries out a search on their favourite search engine, they follow a link from the results page and wow! they are on your site. It's now a race against time. you need to give the visitor what they want very quickly or they will be hitting the back button.

When designing a website it is very important to make information as easy to locate as possible. There are just so many sites after your traffic that it is critically important to convert as many visits as possible.

Convert doesn't always refer to a sale, it refers to any action that gets a visitor to carry out your sites function. This may well be a sale, it may be signing up for something or it may just be reading an article. Never the less, no matter what your sites function, getting as many users to convert as possible is always going to be a battle, but a battle that's very worth fighting.

There are a few things that you can do to try and encourage your visitors to hang around. We will try and talk about a few of them here.

Simple Navigation
There is nothing more off-putting that a site that is difficult to navigate. If a user lands on your site but doesn't understand the fundamentals of now your site works then it's only a short click journey back to the results page.

What we need to do is try to follow standards and systems that users are familiar with. It is because of this that there are relatively few effective methods of site navigation.

I know we all like to be different but in the case of navigation you will do well to stick with the tested and proven to be effective navigation methods.

Top Menu
The top menus by far the most common form of navigation used on the web today. Generally speaking this will be a bar going across the top of the page that contains links to all the importations areas of the site.

The top Menu allows users to travel within the important areas with one click. The top menu doesn't need to be right at the top. Today I see most top menus are located under a page header.

So long as they are placed on top of the main content they are still effective and very easy to use and understand.

Left Side Navigation
This method of navigation has become very popular in recent times. It works on the same principle as top navigation in that it allows the user to visit any main area with only one click.

The left navigation area usually starts just below the page header and carries down for as far as the page content allows. It then merges into the page footer.

This method is also very easy to use. People have now come to understand and expect this.

Right Side Navigation
right side navigation is the exact opposite as left side navigation. Although I do not feel this method is as effective as either a top menu or a left side navigation area. It became popular about a year ago but never really took off.

I am very experienced on the web and even I don't immediately recognise a right hand navigation area. I would recommend using the right hand navigation only if you really need to. For example you begin using the left side then if you need extra space use the right hand side. But take care to place your most important links into the left side navigation menu area.

Bottom Navigation
bottom navigation menus are very common the web, they always have been. For this reason they still make perfect sense. Again it all comes down to users recognition. if they are used to seeing a navigation area at the bottom of a web page they will understand your navigation method.

However you should never rely on any navigation that is not always visible to be your primary method of navigation. A bottom menu should only be used to supplement another navigation method such as a top menu or a right/left menu.

Drop Down Menus
drop down menus are becoming very popular lately in a wide variety of websites. To an extent users are beginning to accept them but again I feel this method should only be used in conjunction with another tried and tested method of navigation.

One important thing to take into account when using drop down menus is that not all items will be visible until the user opens the menu. This may not work to your advantage if they are just looking for the right info right now. A lot of web users wont wait about. If the info is not "in their face" they will simply up and leave.

Bread Crumbs
Bread crumbs are yet another very common method of navigation. They let the user see their "state" within the sites navigation and can easily take a stop back or go down a level in the sites directory structure.

Home [webmasterworld.com] > The Webmaster World [webmasterworld.com] > New To Web Development [webmasterworld.com] > Keeping users on your site

This sort of navigation is fairly popular and I believe it is simple enough for users to understand it well. The main problem with bread crumb navigation is that it only really allows the user to go backwards.

This style of navigation should be used in conjunction with another navigation component that allows users to go directly to the sites key areas.

Site Search Engine
Adding a search engine to your site can be one of the best ways to allow your users to find exactly what they are looking for. You provide a search box on your page. the user is then able to input keyword or key terms. the search engine then provides a list of links to pages that are relevant.

It's one thing to provide a search tool, it's another thing to add a search tool that provides good results. Because of this it is worth while taking the time to test out as many search engines as possible before you commit to using one.

Integration of a search engine onto your site can be done in a number of ways. one option is to provide a search box on every page of your site, that way the user only needs to type in their term and click "search". Another method that works well is to provide a link from within your navigation "search this site". This link then goes to a page containing the search box.

You may choose to use a remotely hosted search solution like free find or Google site search. Or you may choose to install your own search software.

Either way you need to make sure the results are as good as possible to ensure users are finding the right information.

Make It Easy For Users To Get In Touch
very often users will give up looking if they simply can't find exactly what they are looking for.

A "contact us" link may just be enough to save the day. By making it as easy as possible for users to get in touch, you have yet on more chance of keeping their attention. On your contact us page you should make it as easy as possible for potential users/customers to get in touch.

Provide a phone number if practical/possible don't make then email you, supply a web based form that lets then send questions/queries to you.

Reply in a timely manner. If you leave it more than a day or two they may well have lost interest.

There are so many different factors for you to take into account that are directly related to retaining users on your site. All I have been able to do in this thread is to touch base, but I hope it gives some of you ideas on things you can do to improve.




 5:30 am on Jul 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

What can I say? GORGEOUS post, Mack!


 8:02 pm on Jul 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great post mack, as always. I particularly agree about using multiple layers of navigation, each serving different purposes. I do quite like right-hand side navigation despite your reticence, but I agree that it is more unusual and not always as intuitive.

Personally, I like a standard combination of top navigation for major categories, left-hand navigation for in-category, mor specific links, and finished off with a breadcrumb system and a footer with lesser-used links and duplicates of some of the top navigation - useful especially if the page is long.


 2:38 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

How about an opt-in e-mail newsletter?


 3:06 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great post Mack! You have stuck to the navigation concepts for this post and that's a good thing IMHO.

I put important links in the top menu and all links in the bottom menu. That way, users get to see and choose from the important areas only, reducing the clutter and confusion.

The bottom menu helps -

- the users in discovering more options when they become comfortable with my site. Top menus can be distracting to the sales message on my site.

- the users in deciding about the next page to visit without having to go back to the top.

- the search engines to discover more pages of my site easily.


 3:15 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great Post!

I second the bottom menu (although I didn't add it to my new site).


 3:16 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

How about an opt-in e-mail newsletter?

This can be a great sales tool, and an effective method of getting people back to your site, but in the context of my post, signing up for that newsletter in it's self would be a "conversion" :)



 3:26 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Regarding contacting options, I always want to make it very easy for prospects to contact me. I prefer to put my full address and phone number at the bottom of every page. Here are a few ways it helps me --

- Users trust me more because I dare to put my full contact information so openly. There are too many sites on the Internet where it is next to impossible to get the address of the site owner (yes, even from the whois).

- They can call me right then if a prospect is serious about ordering my services but wants something clarified. Sometimes people call up just to verify that there is a real human being at the other end who knows about the subject. Several of them immediately confirm the order :)

- I get a boost in my search engine rankings for local terms because I have included the city, state and country names there. Sometimes, it becomes very difficult to include these info in the main body because you don't want to be restricted to a certain geographical area.

Also I put a "send email" link which links to a simple form with comments, name and email fields and a privacy policy. This way I can avoid my email address being picked by spambots.



 3:35 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

With regards to the Bottom Menu, I usually reserve that for common pages on the site: Home, Contact, Site Map, About, etc. I've see full menus at the bottom of a page (some wiki sites, for instance) and generally disagree with the placement. For long pages it could be a mistake to place main navigation at the bottom.


 3:37 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Especially with pages that scroll down a couple of screens, I love when navigation is always visible. I think it helps users conveniently and helps with cross promoting related goods in a product based type site.

BUT - how about too much repetition or duplication in the insite navigation and/or anchor text?

>> Top navigation to main categories that's colorful and attractive is a design plus
>> Breadcrumbs tell them exactly where they are.
>> According to eye movement studies, left navigation still does attract the eye because of how people read and where they expect navigation to be.
>> Contextual linking within body text is very search engine friendly
>> Bottom navigation to products gives visitors where to go if they haven't performed any "actions" yet.

That's five places on a page where navigation could be used or found, and it would look fine on some pages and be very workable. But it's way too much if it's all to the same pages, more than likely, from an SEO perspective.

There must be some logical ways to split it up that can provide uniformity for users across the site but also avoid too much repeating - and still lead visitors to main category pages from anywhere on the site.

I put important links in the top menu and all links in the bottom menu. That way, users get to see and choose from the important areas only, reducing the clutter and confusion.

I've got a new site half finished that's got exactly that now - top graphical navbar and bottom text links with a little within paragraphs. But it isn't intuitive enough for these pages and needs a quick fix. This is very timely, because it needs a bit of a redesign like yesterday, and this is exactly what I'm tossing around for it.


 5:04 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Flagged it!

Great post mack - will read this one again and again.

Too often we get too involved with other stuff and forget about keeping the visitor that we already have.

<added>Just started my own private search engine for customer sites and I think its a good idea</added>


 5:54 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

After reading your post, i clicked the top navigation of my browser and bookmarked it.



 7:57 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great post! Thanks.


 8:31 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I was thinking about this exact topic yesterday - thanks for the post.


 9:15 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Regarding breadcrumbs...

Home [webmasterworld.com] > The Webmaster World [webmasterworld.com] > New To Web Development [webmasterworld.com] > Keeping visitors I

This sort of navigation is fairly popular and I believe it is simple enough for users to understand it well. The main problem with bread crumb navigation is that it only really allows the user to go backwards.

But you can also lay out your breadcrumbs like this:

Home [webmasterworld.com] > The Webmaster World [webmasterworld.com] > New To Web Development [webmasterworld.com] > Keeping visitors I > Keeping Visitors II [webmasterworld.com]

Which not only allows visitors to move forwards and backwards but makes a direct suggestion to the visitor as to where they might like to click through to next.


 10:18 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

[/quote]- the search engines to discover more pages of my site easily.[/quote]

[/quote]Just started my own private search engine for customer sites[/quote]

What (internal) search engines are you using (forget G, Y, MSN)? How do you make them?

Kind regards


 10:31 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

It's always at good thing to remember that topranks isn't enought and basic usability is the best way to serve the user/costumer (and get the conversion rate up ;-)

So thanks for the resume.

And to all the others folks, specially you guys with the "flags": To help yourself and your users you could try to read more about user-satisfaction/behavior and think usability as a normal part of your SEO-work. There's plenty of webplaces with "best practice" (and book's of course).

The ranks ist'n enought and have never been.

SEO is only the "marketing"-part (the visibility). The next step in the proces is the conversion. To get a high conversion as a minimum it's important to serve users with
1) high quality content with relevancy to the keyword/user,
2) high quality usability and
3) the most relevant links besides the menu(s) at the site.


 11:17 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great post, mack!

I would argue about the placement of it though. Many webmasters do not usualy read “New To Web Development” threads.

Thought about putting it in “the marketing world”?


 11:31 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Psazf, I use the Zoom search engine for my websites. However, you will find many free or relatively cheap scripts that allow you to have a search engine on your website. It is really a case of checking a few of them out and deciding which is the best for your needs.


 11:34 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Regarding the right side nav
I personally use the top lateral nav bar for most significant links
The left hand one for most significant and their sub links.

But I like also using the right side for sub-sites nav or very independent sections


 11:50 am on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

I find the right-side menu lends itself ideally well to "see also" and associated upselling items of interest. Being to the right of the page, it gives the feeling of moving on and implies the next step.


 12:15 pm on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Here's a good resource when it comes to navigation:

Eyetrack III: Navigation [poynterextra.org]


 2:43 pm on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

When I designed websites, I used 3pc navigation, top, left and bottom. That is perfect for a website with a finely tuned nitch. It is not for everybody, and that needs to be mentioned at this point in the thread. If you sell goods or services acrosss numerous products lines, 3pc navigation can reduce the seo of the page, and should not be used.

This is because the keywords on the page become deluted. If your nitch is widgets, you don't need 50% of the words on the page, many of them links, referring to non-widget keywords, in addition to all the other non-keywords you NEED to place on the plage to explain the product line and pitch the goods.

For exmample:

Your have 10 links in top navigation, then 20 down the left side, and 30 across the bottom. The 30 across the bottom are the 20 on the left, plus 10 informational links. Total links on the page are now 60. Only 3 of them are related to widgets, or .05%. You have deluted the widget keyword in your links, and you have deluted it as a percentage of your total page keyword density. This is bad seo in this case.

If the site was only about widgets, we want to see more widget related keywords in those 60 links. That is fine. But, if you sell widgets, sunshine, water, dirt, stars, meteors, planets, falling stars, fish from pluto, grains from mars, and stock information with quotes of the daily close of the stock for any of the planets, in addition to your main product line of widgets, placing three sets of those links on the page is hurting the seo of the page.

Another important issue is the 10 infomational links at the footer, as mentioned above. The correct way to get that information out is to put ONE link there to an informational page that is subnavigation to your informational pages. It is clear to the user, if he needs assistance such as contact, faq, terms, privacy notice, he will find it there, keeping the navigation user friendly. However, it also became more engine friendly, as you removed 9 non-keywords relevant links.

As a bonus, you have just increased your page views for that visitor by using a subnavigational page for all those informational links.

The typical seo mantra is 3pc navigation. However, it is misguide in many cases, and actually hinders seo of the page. The biggest mistake I see in those who have figured this out, is they reduce navigation so severely the visitor frequently ends up on a dead end street, with no or only one way out. It is ideal, of course, to be able to get to any other place in the site, from wherever you are right now.

Visitors are fickled. One minute they want to read an article about seo, the next they would likily click on link for the market close quote on Microsoft, just out of curiosity. If they can't get there from the seo page, they may never see it. But, by providing the route to all the content on every page, you can peak their impulse interest, and increase page views.

Since page views are an important part of 'popularity', it is very important to a site that is weak in all other sectors of the 'popularity' criteria, to maximized those page views.

We are now (since Apr) using center navigation for our main page, that fully explains what the visitor will find when they click the link, then on all other pages bottom navigation only (our top navigation is primarily intra-network) that is not indexed by the search engines, thereby reducing keyword delution considerably. We have to work harder at this because of the extensive advertising we have on the pages, much of it site wide, and keyword not targeted. But, this approach is right for any numerous keyword content site.

The change to our search engine ranking has been major, with our current traffic level higher than our peak fall traffic last year. November is our highest traffic month. We have now exceeded that, as of this week.

I credit it heavily to the change in site navigation. All other traffic to new pages is nowhere near the total new traffic we are now receiving. What we are seeing is higher numbers on any given keywords, and increase search engine ranking on those established keywords, as well as all the new traffic from new keywords. Of course we have also alloted for a modest advetising buget, but that has been done more recently than the navigational change. The traffic increase from the site navigation change, was noticable with the week. (we are indexed daily by Google) The new navigation has been the key to success here.

[edited by: janethuggard at 2:55 pm (utc) on July 18, 2005]


 2:52 pm on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

im quite sure i read an article by jacob nielsen that said that right navigation gets seen slightly more (eyetrack confirms this) but that its use should perhaps be discouraged, since users dont expect it to be there.

i guess this is a bit OT, but can anyone advise that ads should go right and the nav left?


 3:07 pm on Jul 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

As a follow-up to the last post, there is another good reason for bottom navigation. If I read the page, and don't find what I want, where am I? At the bottom of the page.

If I have to scroll back up to the top to find something else, I might just click the BACK browser button, and leave the site. Since I am at the bottom of the page, give me extensive navigation there, if you want me to move through your site. It is the most natural location for navigation, of the 5 options you have, left, right, top, center, and footer.


 2:23 am on Jul 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

Good post, mack and janethuggard!

I am actually in the process of creating a layout for testing. It will use no top/horiz navigation and will carry the main nav in the right column. The bottom text links will be at the bottom of the content column and will include the most comprehensive nav links.

I want to test to see if this format results in keeping users on my site longer.


 3:17 am on Jul 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

Pages like privacy policy, contact us, send feedback etc. need not be included in the search engine (SE) index and hence the links to these pages can be made in a manner that SEs won't index these.

Do you suggest using rel="nofollow" or JavaScript to create such links?


 7:39 pm on Jul 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

im quite sure i read an article by jacob nielsen that said that right navigation gets seen slightly more (eyetrack confirms this) but that its use should perhaps be discouraged, since users dont expect it to be there.

i guess this is a bit OT, but can anyone advise that ads should go right and the nav left?

Believe it or not, Wichita State University actually has a "Software Usability Research Lab" that tests this kind of thing. In one study they found that users' expectations were to find internal site links on the left and external links and/or advertising links on the right. They weren't saying these were the best arrangements, just the ones that people expected. The result of that research seems to fit well with what stef25 said above. (BTW, they're very big on breadcrumb navigation.)


 7:43 pm on Jul 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

Good post mack. Some very good information here folks!


 9:23 am on Jul 20, 2005 (gmt 0)


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