Everyone has probably had at least one frustrating online experience due to being unable to find what they are looking for on a website. A lot of effort is put into the content and looks of a website but one thing that can sometimes be a little overlooked can be the navigation.
Without an easy and intuitive navigation your website visitors may have a difficult time finding all the resources and content on your utility website and leave with a frustrating online experience.
Our trusted web experts have worked on hundreds of websites for electric cooperatives, broadband providers and other utility organizations. We know what the typical utility customer is looking for and can arrange your content in a way that is intuitive and will also incorporate features that will make finding what they are looking for easy. Below are some of remarkably effective navigation tools that we use to give your visitors a memorable online experience.
The first tool is a well thought out global navigation bar that appears on each page.
The navigation shows the top-level or global menu items that lets visitors know what the major sections of the site are.
As shown above, an arrow or other indicator next to the top-level menu item will let your visitors know that there are subpages for that section, while hovering over the top-level menu item will reveal those subpages. This is a way that allows your site visitors to quickly and easily scan the site and get a good understanding of what and where different content on the site is located.
Landing Page Tiles
When your site visitor selects a page that has subpages beneath it, we recommend bringing the visitor to a landing page. In the screen shot above, the visitor selected “Your Account” the landing page has a landing page tile to each of the subpages within the section.
The landing tile will have a visual representation of the page it directs you to as well the page title.
This enhances the site visitor’s online experience by giving them a more visually simplified look to the pages contained within the section.
Breadcrumbs and Interior Sidebar Menus
Breadcrumbs and sidebar menus are two tools that work very well together.
Once your site visitor has navigated to a page, towards the top of the interior page the breadcrumbs will show your visitors where they currently are and where that page falls within the websites structure. The sidebar menu highlights the page that your visitor is currently on as well as showing all the pages within the section they are in. Using breadcrumbs and sidebar menus will not make the visitor rely on main navigation bar and their browsers back button to navigate the site.
The breadcrumbs will allow the visitor to see where they are on a site and quickly navigate to any pages above the current page by clicking on the link, the sidebar menu lets the visitor see and navigate to the other pages in their current section.
It’s easy to get lost on a website and to be unsure of where to go next but breadcrumbs and sidebar menus will help avoid confusion for your visitors and help them to have a memorable experience.
Having a search function, generally located on or near the main navigation bar, can be an extremely useful tool. If a visitor has one thing they need to know and they don’t want to spend time bouncing from page to page, having a search will make their stay much more productive.
When a visitor searches on of our sites, the results page will highlight the search term within the results so they can quickly look and see if they have found what they were looking for.
We’d love visitors to stay and check out all the content on a site, but people are busy and having a search that gets them exactly what they need can create a great experience
External links and Documents
For external links and documents our best practices recommend that these be opened in new tab. When you send a visitor to an external site, opening it in a new tab will allow the visitor to navigate around that site and eliminate using the back button to get back to your page by closing that tab or clicking on that tab. Similarly opening documents in a new tab allows you to switch between the page and the document without using the back and forward buttons on your browsers.
Documents are also identified with (PDF) for example so that visitors know they are going to a document and not another webpage.
We take a great deal of pride in putting together good looking, well thought out utility websites and a major part of that is making sure things are easy to find and the site is easy to navigate.
Memorable online experiences aren’t just made by the having a website that looks great but also by having website that’s easy to use and our trusted web experts are here to help you make all of that happen.