We’ve all heard the experts and read the articles about the best way to set up your web’s information design. Graphics, detailed menus, right navigation, left navigation, heat maps, intuitive, topical, functional – STOP STOP STOP.
I propose Cow-Path navigation design. Behnam Ataee, CTO of Dream Warrior Group, Inc. shows his expertise every day when designing and implementing the information design on web sites from The Arts to E-Commerce. He consults with clients about their goals, researches and then uses his knowledge of user behavior to design the best possible initial site navigation.
But is that enough? I say it’s the ideal and necessary start but we can’t stop there. This is where observation and analytics come in to the picture. Now that we have a logical and amazing looking navigation, we need to see what happens. Because (and I know this is a shock), people don’t always act logically. As marketers and developers, we need to see what is happening – figure out why and if we can and adopt the navigation schema to behavior.
Certainly, we still want to design a site that funnels folks to the desired end… But they may have a better way to get there. Or, it may not be better but it was they want… give them what they want.
As I was discussing this with our new friend and client, John Olchak from The The San Diego Repertory Theatre, he likened it to landscape designers who don’t put in the concrete sidewalks until they see where people are making their own paths. Smart. I recalled my college days at UWSP. Outside the Science and Natural Resources building there were signs saying ‘Don’t make cow-paths!” because the student body was forever cutting corners and tearing up the grass (I confess to nothing). For the record, good design is not making paths for students that involve any amount of extra steps from the library to the business building.
So, with Web site navigation I say “Let’s embrace the cow-paths”. Check out your analytics how are people getting to your desired goal/conversion? Can we make that navigation easier and more enticing for others? So, don’t ever pour concrete on your web site. Leave the navigation open to change to match the cow-path or add a second path. Keep it simple, clean and give the visitors what they want.
Now… are your visitors not converting or choosing to make a path to your goal page? That’s another blog and conversation about goals, page content and ease of conversion. We’ll talk soon.