Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What works best for navigation? Icon links or text links? - WEBSITE STRATEGY

That's one of the core design choices you can make.

I am not talking about the top navigation bar or side menus.

I am talking about the topics you can list in the content.

I tested both - here is what I did:

  • TEST 1 - around 50 program icons listed on the home page
  • TEST 2 - the totality of the topics ordered and listed on the home page as links
  • TEST 3 - only a fraction of topics are listed - icons to product types like ebooks, videos, etc
With TEST 2, which is the text links, traffic increased by roughly  5-10%

With TEST 3, traffic decreased by 30%

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So, here is the conclusion:

Even though, listing ALL topics on the home page does not make sense from a design perspective (it doesn't look as pretty as icons, videos, etc) that's what makes visitor's life the easiest.

It is way more challenging to navigate a see of icons than a see of text links where ONLY the info needed is there.

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Actually quite a few big sites use this full set of text links in their home page.

Craigslist, and many other sites.

I am sure that designers don't like it at all because it gives them nor room for creativity.

However, I am sure that users love it because they can find exactly what they look for straight away!

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Very few clicks on the "Ebooks", "Videos", "Audios", etc New icons - WEBSITE STRATEGY

In a way this was to be expected but it's good to get a solid confirmation.

icons like these are just too general!

They don't trigger a response and a need.

Compared with program icons, they are way less specific.

When you have icons that say "break up for men", "wake up your power", etc. I am sure that these icons respond more to a need and visitors do recognize their need because IT IS SPECIFIC!

Don't get me wrong, links to the products like ebooks, videos, etc still need to be there but they don't need to be as centralized in the home page.

The reason why I say this is because I tested it now for at least 4 months.

the first 2 months, there were only links on home page to the various topics.

about 2 months ago, I created these new products icons and gave them top central position on the home page.

Guess what happened?

Nothing!

There is close to NO change in traffic to these product pages!

Conclusion is clear!

Visitors to home page don't really click on these icons.

When they access the site, they are not looking for videos, audios or ebooks.

They are looking for a solution to a challenge they face!

That's what they will click on way easier.

Conclusion, USE TOPICS as the main core navigation for the site, not product type!!!

Yes, keep product type navigation these as some people will still use it but probably 90% of your audience will use mainly the navigation by topic!