Now that we are a couple of decades into working on presenting information on the web, it is easy to see conventions developing in terms of handling navigation, content, calls to action, and more. Within industries and types of websites (e-commerce sites, for example) you can see many striking similarities.
These emerging conventions challenge the out-of-the-box thinkers among us. Dare to be different! Shake things up!
Well, recent research from Nielsen Norman Group shows that fresh ideas run the risk of putting you behind the curve with users. The research involved a basic usability study of Bucknell University’s redesigned and convention-breaking website. The goal of the study focused on how the desktop design impacted visitors’ ability to find the information that they needed and to gauge the usability of the site.
The visually attractive site created an overall positive impression of the university, but the real lessons were about the importance of understanding and following conventions for main navigation.
Key facts that most users want to find about a university were hard to find, because insufficient and hidden navigation prevented users from discovering the pages that showcased this information. The researchers concluded, “Your website may have great content and a nice visual design, but none of that matters if users cannot actually find your content.”
Key finding: Don’t make global navigation hard to find. Everything else on your site will suffer, including your business goals.
Read the full report.