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Are Clever Navigation Names Worth the Confusion?

You’re finally ready to redesign the ball and chain site you’ve been
anchored to for years. You want to feel inspired and take some chances.
You don’t want to look anything like your competitors and most
importantly, you want your site to feel like you.

It’s easy to get
caught up in the desire to express yourself through even the smallest
details of your site, but that can get in the way of simple usability
decisions such as your navigation. It’s my job to make sure our clients and agency partners know where to express their creativity most effectively, while keeping usability a top priority.

Don’t let aspiration get in the way of information

One
common mistake is getting overly creative in navigation names,
avoiding standard titles like about, contact, help, services,
etc. But trying to force apsiration into an informational system can
cause more confusion than it’s worth. If a visitor leaves your site,
it’s rarely because the navigation failed to inspire them. It’s the
content, design, and clarity of the site that makes a lasting
impression. I try to encourage clients to channel that creative expression into areas that will make a bigger impact, like their design and content strategy.

Where to be creative, and where to be simple

When
a client is deliberating over what to call a section of their site, I assure them they can’t go wrong with naming it in the simplest terms possible. Even
if your content may have a proprietary name in other marketing avenues,
you should consider simplifying the name on the website. We’ve all had
the experience of trying to decode what a page or section is really all
about: Connect means Contact, Thoughts means Blog, Leadership means
Executive Team, Results means Case Studies, etc. No matter how clever a
title is, a visitor’s inner monologue will be trying to translate the
title into something they ‘get,’ sort of like this: “What does
Inspirations mean? Oh, I can comment. This must be a blog.”

Navigating a site should not feel like a scavenger hunt

Some
people say they like the idea luring in visitors to a section with an obscure title, but treating site visitors like participants in a
scavenger hunt is a risky propositionl. You’re just as likely to lose
visitors by obscuring the page’s meaning as you are to peaking their curiosity.

Most visitors will have an objective before they
land on your site to find a specific type of content. If they don’t have
specific content in mind, they’re probably a first time visitor trying to make sense of who you are and what you do. A clear,
concise navigation system is the best way to allow them to figure this
out for themselves quickly, and engage them further into the session.

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