There are three reasons people visit a website:
- They are looking for something
- They trying to accomplish something
- They have five minutes to kill before their next meeting
Too many sites only remember the last, and they think people have two hours and not five minutes. Too many sites think the visitor is dying to be entertained, even if they are coming to a tax-preparation site, and festoon the place with animated gifs and zooming navigation.
Let’s say that’s not you. You aren’t here to entertain. You know what your site is: it’s a site with tons of information. Or tons of stuff. And people have come on a quest. And you want to help them.
So let’s look at an example of a quest. Let’s say I’m looking for a scarf for my scarf-losing husband. (looks cold, doesn’t he?)
I decide to try Nordstroms.com, because I like the store’s customer service. I always feel taken care of there.
When I arrive I see they have divided the store into departments, though they don’t label it as such.
Nor do they have to. Most websites offer navigation across the top of left side, and that is all that matters to me, the user. I really don’t care if they are called departments, sections or clothing bins, as long as they hold scarves.
So I try the men’s department, look in accessories, look in outwear, look under gifts under 50 dollars, look under best sellers, look in… waitaminute, did I look in accessories??? The category list all is the same color, and nothing has changed as I dug through the categories….
When hypertext was created, some one came up with three ways to display a link: an unvisited link, a visited link, and an active link each had its own unique color.
Designers have taken active links to the next level, by introducing fancy rollovers that change the background color when the user passes his mouse across it. At the same time they have almost completely demolished the visited link. Almost all commercial sites now define the visited link to be the same color as the unvisited link.
When you are searching for something, and methodically going through the categories, you need a way to know where you’ve looked as well as a way to determine where you might look next. I nearly gave up on Nordstrom’s, thinking that I had looked everywhere, because I thought I’d already looked in accessories.
And I would have missed this lovely scarf. Only 15 bucks! A bargin! I can buy three so he can keep losing them….
So you, you smart site designer who knows that people go to shockwave.com when want to play a a holiday game before their meeting with finace, but don’t want to mess around when they are trying to get something bought by December 17th, the last shipping day to get it there by xmas, and still haven’t gotten the chance to run to the deli for a sandwich before the team get together… you’ll help us out and bring back the visited link, right?