Last week, we discussed the importance of the five basic elements of website building:

  • Website Layout,
  • Titles,
  • Sitemap,
  • Header Links, and
  • Link Appearance.

Today, we dive deeper into more website usability standards. Remember, the point is making your site as easy as possible for visitors to use and navigate, ideally improving your chances of winning conversions in the process.

The second level of site-building
Last week’s review of website building basics covered physical concepts: The actual name of a page, the actual look of your links.

The second level, then, takes those elements and builds a site structure with them. We already discussed the importance of a clean, clear website layout as one of the five basic elements. Now, we break that layout down into six primary site pages that you should build your site around:

1. Home page. Even if you do a minimal amount of work on your site, you’ll still have a home page. It’s the home of your most basic domain, and ideally it will offer, at a glance, everything your first-time visitor may want to see.

Regarding site navigation, your home page (and very other page) should have a navigation bar (navbar) prominently displayed on top or to the right of the site. The first link on that navbar will be “Home”, and that’ll take your traffic directly page to this, your main page.

2. Blog page. Will your blog have its own section, or will it be placed directly on your home page? That’s up to you, and may be partially a design choice — i.e., what looks better — but whichever you decide, make sure that the blog is easy to find, particularly if you blog a lot and are likely to have visitors seek it out.

3. Sign-up page. Often overlooked, but vital, is the sign-up page, where you let your visitors opt-in to your email marketing lists. This is often overlooked because it’s frequently just an extra element added to “about” or “contact” pages. And that’s wise: Those pages, too, should have an area where visitors can opt-into your marketing list.

But it’s still essential to have a sign-up page that stands on its own, if only for the reason that you can include it on your site navigation bars (navbar) and give your visitors the easiest route possible to your email lists.

4. About Us page. Another essential page on your site is “About Us.” Even if the “us” is just a “me” and there isn’t much “about” your story that seems worth sharing, you’ll want to put up something here to let people know who you are. (And most website templates, like WordPress, come automatically with an About Us page anyway, and all you have to do is fill it out.)

Writing may not be your strong suit, but don’t overlook the opportunity to help sell yourself on your “about” page. Present yourself well here by offering visitors an overview of your qualifications for your niche. A teaser for your blog content will help lead visitors over to that page to investigate further.

5. Contact page. Another essential, although not as revelant to most affiliates sites and portals as to brick-and-mortar businesses. Still, it’s a smart move to let your visitors know how to email you, in cause they’re interested in further opportunities for linking and networking. It’s also something you want to include on your main navbars to give visitors the luxury of knowing where they are while visiting your site.

6. SSL / security page. If your site at any point asks visitors for sensitive info, such as is usually involved in selling a product or service, you need to make sure your visitors know that your site is as secure as possible. Do this by offering a special page describing your security and making it prominent in your site navigation toolbar.

Now that you know the basic pages you need to build, here’s a quick roundup of some other important usability and navigation elements to be added as you build out your design and content:
Social media and bookmarking buttons. It’s rare to read an article online these days without having the option to immediately “like” that article via a conveniently placed Facebook link. It’s become easy to incorporate all the major social links to each article (usually Facebook, Twitter, DIGG, and StumbleUpon), so there’s no reason for not doing so. And the benefits go far beyond usability to offer real SEO value, as well.  

Related content links. If an article or blog post you write is related to something else on your site, let visitors know right there in the content, and provide links. This is great for internal SEO, as well as helping visitors to access some of your deeper pages, thereby helping to create “deep links” and establishing your site as an authority site.

Breadcrumbs. These are links that let visitors switch back and forth between pages easily. Used typically in more advanced, sales-oriented sites in which customers may want to keep their eyes on certain pages at once, breadcrumbs may or may not be a wise addition to your site, depending on what you want your traffic to do (convert on a specific page, or convert where they are).

As with most other components of online marketing, testing and monitoring is the way to see which of these navigational tactics to emphasize when creating a usable website. Any other elements we’ve missed? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you’re thinking.

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