Website navigation is a ubiquitous concept today. Customers expect to find whatever they’re looking for through the links at the top of the “homepage” or in the “hamburger” menu. Frustration sets in quickly when those expectations aren’t met, and they dial customer support.
But what is navigation? Is it for you- the business – to show what you got? Or is it for the customer to get something done?
In the beginning…
We organized website navigation per department or line of business. As in: the business has these 5 departments, so these 5 departments will be at the top of our homepage. The assumption was – and often still is – that the business and the end-user of the site are 100% aligned on needs.
That worked at first, mostly because customers had low expectations as they were learning how to use the internet. There wasn’t much competition for their attention, nor a public platform to complain.
The internet is about 30yrs old right now. People’s online usage patterns have changed – we expect more. We expect you – the business – to know what we want. After all, haven’t you been doing “customer research?” Don’t you have analytics to track us?
Today, customers’ have heightened expectations for a customized experience. They expect to find anything they need on your website as easily as asking an in-store customer service rep where to find something. AND, they expect to be able to meet those needs from anywhere on your site/app, not just from the hamburger menu or the main nav bar at the top.
Taking all this into account, as a business, you need to think beyond hierarchical (i.e. a per department/line of business) navigation, and more towards a lateral needs-based navigation structure.
Oh boy. How do you do that?
Only by knowing what your customers intend to do on your site. So ask yourself, do you know what your customer’s intentions are when they land on your site? If not, how do you expect your business to meet them?