My mom recently discovered the joys of Facebook games. Specifically, Farmville. It’s what she uses her Macbook (which has better specs than mine) for. Once in a rare while, however, she’ll decide she wants to do some web browsing. And that’s when she calls me.
Mom: I’m at this website… and I don’t know what to do next!
Me: What links can you click on?
Mom: Links? How do I search?
Me: Is there a search box? A search button?
Mom: Um, no… oh, wait… not here… or there…
Me: Try scrolling down? Look in the upper right area?
Mom: Okay. Oh! There it is! I found it! Thank you. Why are you so good with computers?
This scenario is more common than you think. Sometimes I feel like my mother is almost oblivious to most site navigation designs- like she just doesn’t see them.
If my mom falls at all into your target audience (and she loves online shopping), here are some tips for site navigation design that might make everyone’s lives easier (especially mine):
Make Buttons Look Like Buttons
They don’t have to be all 90’s-style over-beveled buttons, but they should look like buttons. Thin borders are good, “tab” styles are good, and if they change- even slightly in color- on mouseover, even better.
Mom loves buttons that say “Click Here!” Of course, they aren’t recommended. What you should do is be as clear as possible that if you click here, you will be brought here. The w3 explains this well, and basically you want to:
- Provide information when read out of context.
- Explain what the link offers.
- Don’t talk about mechanics.
- Don’t use verb phrases (e.g. “Tell me more”)
Make Search Prominent
When faced with a confusing-looking site, the first thing Mom does is look for the search box- so make it obvious. On the same subject, make your search results easy to understand as well. I wrote more about search about a year ago.
Don’t Hide Things
I love Google, but the way they hide their top navigation bar unless you mouseover it is not cool with Mom- she doesn’t browse like I do, with one hand on the mouse, moving the cursor around constantly. She sits back and says, “What now?” So, if Mom is your target audience, go easy on the hiding.
How do you simplify your site navigation style?