A friend of mine recently asked for suggestions on a web site she was working on for a doctor. After reviewing it, I realized the site had grown the way many do: when the doctor had some time, or a new thought occurred to him, he added another page to the site.
Some pages explored topics in depth, others glossed over equally important subjects. A somewhat different voice was used in each one, probably because they were written by different people. Aside from a similar graphic treatment, the pages didn’t connect with each other in any way.
What’s more, the navigation compounded the confusion. I expected to the navigation to include major topics, listed from most important to least important. Instead, the navigation consisted of a long list of various disease names, treatments, resources, and other information all thrown together in a single list and organized in alphabetical order.
It left you a bit confused and not feeling like the doctor would “treat the total patient,” like he claimed.
What’s Your Goal? My friend’s first question to the doctor was: What is the goal of your web site? Is it to attract new patients? Serve as a resource for existing patients, and reduce calls to the office? To establish the doctor as a thought leader in his field?
It had never occurred to the doctor to consider that question, but the answer drove all the marketing decisions that followed on the new site.
Many web sites suffer from the same hodge-podge approach the doctor took. To make sure yours doesn’t, start by articulating and prioritizing your goals. Make sure that every element of your site supports those goals.
Build a Solid Framework First. Once you know the elements you want to include, build your navigation. Group your pages by like categories, and give people more than one way to find what they’re looking for. (In the doctor’s case, that meant reaching the same pages by different paths such as diseases, symptoms, and treatments.)
Once you have the framework in place, it’s much easier to build a cohesive web site that makes it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for, and for you to reach your goals.