Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Getting Around: Creating an Intuitive, Meaningful Navigation Structure

Want to know how to make visitors crazy and drive them away from your blog? Make your navigation confusing! We’ve all landed on a website only to be greeted by some weird navigation structure that not only doesn’t tell us what is available, but doesn’t let us return to the page we were on easily. Want some advice? Don’t do this to your readers!!!

Your navigation sets the pace for how visitors move through your site. And this is another important piece of your blog makeover puzzle. In fact, this element may be even more important than your header design.
You want to keep it as simple as possible so that it's user friendly and easy to understand. The worst thing is a busy navigation bar that leaves readers feeling confused and unsure of where to go. A confused reader doesn't end up doing anything but clicking away from your site, never to return. With that in mind, here are some navigation tips you should know about:

  • Make sure your header is linked to the homepage.
  • Keep it consistent across every page of your website – don’t move your navigation to another location or change the tabs from page to page.
  • Properly name each tab on the navigation bar so people know exactly where they’ll go if they click on it.
  • Keep it simple - in the case of the navigation bar, less is more. You don't want to give your readers too many options.
  • Easy to find - your site visitors should be able to find what they're looking for within a few seconds of being on your site.

Another thing to consider is whether you'll use a single layer navigation bar or a drop down one. The drop down option may seem like a good idea because you can combine things into one tab and have them show up when someone hovers. For example: your main navigation tab 'about' can drop down and give a visitor the option to 'contact' you. However, if you can avoid a drop down navigation bar, then don't use it. It’s far better to have all the important pages visible than to hide them below something else. Remember, simple is almost always better.
One last thing to keep in mind when setting up the navigation of your site: make sure that your readers always know where they are on your blog. Do this by making a ‘Home’ link in your navigation, or by using ‘breadcrumbs’ to give the reader a way to backtrack.  

Once you have the navigation menu set up, ask someone to test it for you. Have them spend a few minutes on your blog to see if it's easy to navigate. You built it, so you may find that you simply don’t notice things that are out of place or not clear. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can see things you didn't.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Take it From the Top: Redesigning Your Blog Header

It’s the first thing people see when they land on any page of your website. Just as you make a first impression when people meet you in person, your header is also the first impression people have of your blog. Ideally, you want people to look at it and immediately know what your site is about. It should build a connection with your reader by ‘telling a story,’ and that story will depend on the type of blog you have.

If it's a business blog, your story will probably be more on the serious side so your header should reflect that. But if it's a personal blog and your personality is fun and creative, then let your header show that.

Regardless of the type of blog you have, there are several things to consider when redesigning your header:

Size - shoot for a header image that isn't more than 250 pixels high. The header is important but you don't want it so big that it's taking up valuable above-the-fold real estate. In fact, many modern blogs and websites are using smaller headers than that, some as small as 150 pixels or less. If a small header will work for your blog, then go for it, because a small header leaves more room for content.

Image - if you're going to use any sort of picture in your header, it's really important that the quality of the image is the best possible. One of the quickest ways to ruin a great looking header is by using poor quality images in it. 

Text - decide what text you're going to include in your header. Make sure your site name is in the header. If you have a tagline that goes with your site, then put that in the header too. Just don’t get carried away with fonts. You want them to be readable, and use no more than two to avoid confusion.

Visually appealing - we're all visual creatures so we're drawn to things that are attractive to us. Make sure your colors go together, that your fonts are clear, that the text is readable, and that the images convey the message you are trying to send. Remember, your header will set the tone for the rest of your site.

Keep in mind that you can always outsource this part of the process. If you don't have enough time or experience to mess around with creating a header, then it would make more sense to let someone who knows what they're doing handle it so you can focus on other aspects of the makeover.