Hyperlinks are the foundation of the Web
Hyperlinks are the foundation of the Web

Navigating the web can be more complex than navigating any major city. The web consists of millions of different sites with different links, all leading in their own direction.

Single websites can have dozens of pages, each leading the user toward their destination. Let’s not forget the origins of the web: hyperlinks are the foundation of the web.

The words and structure of your links are key in optimizing conversion. Usability expert Gerry McGovern details how important it is for users to be able to reach their destination and explains the crucial role of the first click and navigation.

The importance of being able to navigating the Internet with ease comes down to efficiency. When web users are looking for something – especially what Gerry calls customer top tasks – and they click a link that won’t ultimately lead them to their destination, it can result in major productivity losses. Findings by Webusability confirmed this, Gerry notices. The study found that “participants were about twice as likely to succeed if they selected the correct response on the first page with which they had to deal… In addition, those scenarios that had incorrect first clicks tended to take longer to complete, and required more page views.”

The wrong links and poor navigation can result in a tarnished brand

The implications of these findings are staggering. The lost time spent following the wrong path of links can mean lost revenue in the form of sales or other marketing. In the case of users looking for technical support or trying to solve another problem, the wrong path can mean that customers sour on the company. If enough of a site’s users have trouble making the first click the right one, the result can be a tarnished brand.

Online marketers need to make sure that navigating their website isn’t an arduous process. Navigation is of the utmost importance here. Gerry McGovern states that overlapping links are the “most basic mistake in navigation design.” By taking more time to plan out a site’s navigation, businesses can maximize the efficiency of their web traffic. The end result is that individual users are able to visit a site and find what they are looking for quickly. They’re then free to move on to another task. Meanwhile, websites have generally happier visitors and more efficient business. It’s good for the user, it’s good for the site, and it’s good for the Internet as well in fact.

A few of Gerry McGovern’s rules for good navigation:

  • Provide as few choices as possible and focus on the top tasks (“highest demand tasks”) of your visitors.
  • Design the top level of your navigation in isolation, based on your 20 top tasks.
  • Most of what you will be doing to improve success rate will involve changing words.