You just launched your website, and you can’t wait to start signing up your first visitors. But nothing happens. You are offering an amazing program for free, but no one is biting. In fact, analytics tell you that no one is exploring beyond the homepage. What’s up?
Chances are, your website navigation needs an overhaul. Like the outline to a novel, the map on a long drive, and the recipe for your favourite dish, if people don’t have a simple, reliable and findable tool to get what they want, they’ll lose interest or look somewhere else.
This is critical for government websites because many of these sites are developed for the sole purpose of serving the community. If the community is shuffling around your site, trying to find where to sign up for benefits, register a complaint about a politician, book an inspection or get medical provider lists, your site has failed the public.
It is possible to make navigation on your government website a better experience for visitors. Here are some tips:
The menu should be simple, easy to find and consistent
Navigation is not the place to get fancy or overly artistic. You should make the menu bar easy to find, and you should not move its page orientation as users move around your website. This offers your visitors easy navigation, which keeps their orientation and focus on what your website is about. Your descriptors should be concise and accurate. They should also be targeted at your users’ reasons for visiting the website. If you are offering waste removal, put that on your menu instead of “services.”
The substantive information should be accessible
If you have a website with related but different services, such as classes, seminars and speakers, make sure these different categories are accessible. Use drop-down menus for easier navigation, and present sub-categories in a way that makes further information quick to retrieve. If you want to know how to do this well, you should know about GovNet. In one click from the homepage, you land on their page listing trainers and speakers. Each person’s photo has a very brief bio to pique your interest but not to overwhelm. The design gives you an idea of the breadth of their offerings while letting you decide how deep you want to dig.
The call to action should be clear
There is a purpose for your website. It may be to introduce a product or benefit, to market a service or to enlist volunteers. You need to be straightforward about how you want your visitors to act in response to what you are offering, and then provide clear and repeated calls to action. The call to action should be posted throughout the site, and it should lead directly to pages where visitors can sign up.
Your website navigation needs to make everything on your site is easy to find and easy to use. Test your site to make sure it facilitates your users and your organisation’s purposes. You’ll be glad you did!